Global privacy restraints – Google vs the CNIL

Google has today published an op-ed in which it makes clear its intention to appeal against the CNIL’s ruling that the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ has global reach, requiring Google to deindex links not just within Europe but across the world – see here.

This is an important step by Google and brings into sharp focus the question of how privacy rights should operate within an effectively globalised online environment. It is interesting that this development comes so soon after the Supreme Court’s judgment in PJS (as to which see Robin’s post here). In PJS, we have seen the Supreme Court trying to hold back the tide of online publicity in order to protect the remnants of PJS’s privacy. Now Google is mounting an appeal which is effectively designed to geo-locate privacy rights, giving them a purchase in some jurisdictions but not others. Of course, the PJS case itself illustrates the practical difficulties which such a parochialising approach to the protection of privacy rights can create. On the other hand, is it really right that domestic courts within Europe are in effect able to foist their legal culture on other jurisdictions, jurisdictions which may well approach the protection of privacy rights in a very different way? Is this a kind of intolerable legal imperialism or is it an approach which can be justified on the basis that the right to privacy is indeed a universal right which does not wax and wane based on geographical factors? These are all really important questions which now lie at the heart of debates surrounding the relationship between data privacy rights and online freedoms.

Anya Proops QC