The Court Of Justice Of The European Union Rules That There Is No Obligation For Google To Carry Out De-Referencing On Non-EU Versions Of Its Search Engine

On September 24, 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the "Court") issued two rulings with respect to the online 'right to be forgotten'.

In its first ruling, the Court provided important clarifications on the conditions under which data subjects may secure the de-referencing of a link displayed in a search result (Case C-136/17).

In the second ruling, the Court ruled on the territorial scope of the de-referencing obligation, concluding that, under EU law, Google LLC ("Google") is not required to carry out a de-referencing on all versions of its search engine, but only on the versions of its search engine corresponding to all the Member States (Case C-507/17).

This client alert focuses on the key issues emerging from this second ruling.

  1. Context of the decision

    The ruling is a result of proceedings between Google and the French Data Protection Authority ("CNIL"). On May 21, 2015, the CNIL issued a formal notice requiring Google to remove a link from the results of all its search engine's domain name extensions. Google refused to do so and decided only to remove the links from the results displayed following searches on versions of its search engine in the Member States.

    Considering this a failure to comply with the notice, the CNIL imposed a fine of €100,000 on Google on March 10, 2016. The company challenged the fine imposed and sought the annulment of the CNIL's decision before the French Council of State ("Conseil d'Etat").

  2. Questions referred to the Court

    Having concluded that the company's argument raised serious issues on the interpretation of Directive 95/46 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (the "Directive"), the Conseil d'Etat decided to refer several questions of interpretation of EU law concerning the right to de-referencing for preliminary ruling by the Court.

    The key questions referred to the Court related to whether the rules of EU law relating to data protection are to be interpreted as meaning that, where a search engine operator grants a request for de-referencing, that operator is required to carry out that de-referencing on all versions of its search engine or whether, on the contrary, it is required to do so only on the versions of that search engine "corresponding to" all the Member States or only on the version "corresponding to" the Member State of residence of the individual benefiting from the de-referencing.

    The Court...

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