EU Thinks It Has Jurisdiction Over The Global Internet: Says Right To Be Forgotten Should Be Global

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Even if Europeans believe strongly in this right-to-be-forgotten idea, they should be, as Meyers is, troubled by the idea that an EU ruling can impact the global internet. And yes, as Meyers points out, the US is often guilty of pretending that its laws apply to the global internet as well, and that should be equally troubling.

By Mike Masnick @ Tech Dirt

Back in May, of course, a troubling ruling by the EU Court of Justice said that search engines had to disappear links on searches for certain people’s names if that information was somehow no longer relevant. This, of course, kicked off a “right to be forgotten” craze in Europe, where thousands of people sought to have embarrassing stories about them removed from Google’s results on their names. In July, we noted that EU regulators were suggesting that this “right to be forgotten” should apply globally, rather than just in Europe, as Google had currently implemented it. Google pushed back on this idea, but apparently without success. Last week, the EU’s data protection officials released new “guidelines” [pdf]that argue the right to be forgotten should apply globally.

Specifically, it argues that if a person’s privacy rights are violated by having results show up in search engines in Europe, then those same rights are violated if they show up in any non-EU search results as well (all emphasis in the original):

The [data protection working group]considers that in order to give full effect to the data subject’s rights as defined in the Court’s ruling, de-listing decisions must be implemented in such a way that they guarantee the effective and complete protection of data subjects’ rights and that EU law cannot be circumvented. In that sense, limiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the ruling. In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains.

Under EU law, everyone has a right to data protection.

The key line here is not actually bolded in the original. It’s the “this means that in any case de-listing should also be effective on all relevant .com domains.” Basically, if it can be reached from Europe, it has to be blocked. Or, in even shorter form, “EU regulations apply around the globe online.” That’s a really, really, bad idea. Because now how will the EU respond to other countries pushing their own silly censorship efforts globally? Russia can claim that anything about homosexuality must be blocked globally. China can argue that anything about Tibet or government corruption can be blocked globally. And how will the EU respond?

This is so troubling that even folks who actually support the original ruling are speaking out about how troubling these new guidelines are. Even GigaOm’s David Meyer, who regularly has supported the right to be forgotten (which he argues is an unfair description of “the right to be de-linked”), says that this is bad:

I can understand Falque-Pierrotin’s logic, but even I — someone who finds value in the concept of the right to be de-linked — think this is an awful decision.

It’s part of a worrying trend, taking place around the world, for local or regional internet-related rules to apply everywhere. Again, it is understandable why regulators want to do this – the internet is a global medium, and it’s near-impossible to geographically limit effective regulation – but the result is layers of overlapping jurisdictions.

Even if Europeans believe strongly in this right-to-be-forgotten idea, they should be, as Meyers is, troubled by the idea that an EU ruling can impact the global internet. And yes, as Meyers points out, the US is often guilty of pretending that its laws apply to the global internet as well, and that should be equally troubling.

This article originally appeared at Tech Dirt