The European Court of Justice has ruled in Google’s favour in the latest dispute around the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’.

On Wednesday, the court determined that Google is only required to de-list this information on Google sites accessed within Europe.

“Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator who grants a request for de-referencing made by a data subject ... to carry out such a de-referencing on all the versions of its search engine,” the European Court of Justice said.

“However, EU law requires a search engine operator to carry out such a de-referencing on the versions of its search engine corresponding to all the Member States.”

Citizens of EU member states can request that their information can be delisted from Google’s search engines if it is deemed ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive’.

People have successfully requested that Google delist news articles about crimes for which they have served their sentences.

Google lawyer, Peter Fleischer, said the tech giant was pleased with the court’s decision.

“Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy,” he said.

“It’s good to see that the court agreed with our arguments.”

The case began in 2016 when CNIL, the French data protection regulator, fined Google €100,000 because the tech giant refused to remove requested information from access outside the EU.

Although Google may have won this battle, Google’s war with the EU, and other regulators around the world, will continue, according to Michael Douglas, Consultant at law firm Bennett and Co and Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia Law School.

He said the case touches on a range of complicated issues around global internet regulation.

“These European laws are underpinned by certain values one of which is privacy, another is tied up with Europeans call personality rights, so you a right to dignity for example.

“What this judgement recognises is that, although many people agree those things are valuable, there are legitimate disputes over what is of more value.

“Is privacy more valuable than freedom of expression? Is access to information more valuable than a person’s right to reinvent themselves?

“And different people you ask will have different answers to that and different legal systems have different answers to that in the balance they strike with the law.”

Lawyer Michael Douglas. Source: Bennett + Co

With the internet becoming continually fractious and restricted, cases around the ‘right to be forgotten’ have broader implications for the future of worldwide communications.

“Irrespective of your opinion on the underlying values, for European law to apply globally is to some extent an intrusion into the sovereignty of every other nation with internet access,” he said.

“The sort of counterfactual Google might offer is ‘Alright, well if we give effect to your global delisting, what are we going to do when dictators or other more palatable rationales propose global delistings?’

“It’s not to say that Europe shouldn’t be entitled to regulate what happens in Europe, of course that’s the case, but whether this should happen everywhere is a tricky question.”