American Web users’ access to Internet content may soon be limited, thanks to a recent decision by French regulators. France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberties (known by its French acronym CNIL) ordered Google to apply the European Union’s bizarre “right-to-be-forgotten” rules on a global basis in a June ruling. The search engine announced at the end of July that it would refuse to comply. If it is nevertheless forced to do so, the result could be unprecedented censorship of Internet content, as well as a dangerous expansion of foreign Web restrictions on Americans.
The European Union’s “right-to-be-forgotten” rules were first imposed in May of last year in a case decided by the European Court of Justice. The plaintiff, a Spanish citizen named Mario Costeja González, had his house repossessed in 1998 due to a tax debt. A notice of the sale was duly printed in a local paper. A decade later, concerned that the newspaper notice still appeared in search results when his name was Googled, he sued the search engine under the EU privacy law, to force it to filter the story from future search results. Continue reading