Lawyer Vincenzo Colarocco
By decision of 21 May 2015, the President of the French Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL’) served formal notice on Google that, when acceding to a request from a natural person for the removal of links to web pages from the list of results displayed following a search performed on the basis of that person’s name, it must apply that removal to all of its search engine’s domain name extensions. By adjudication of 10 March 2016, the CNIL, after finding that Google had failed to comply with that formal notice by the prescribed time limit, imposed on it a penalty, which was publicised, of €100 000. By an application lodged before the Conseil d’État (Council of State, France), Google seeks to have that adjudication annulled. The Conseil d’État decided to refer several questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, in his Opinion, stating that the Community provisions on the subject do not expressly regulate the question of the territoriality of deindexing and that a differentiation is necessary according to the place from which the research is carried out, proposes that the Court should declare that the “search engine operator is not required, when acceding to a request for de-referencing, to carry out that de-referencing on all the domain names of its search engine in such a way that the links in question no longer appear, irrespective of the location from which the search on the basis of the requesting party’s name is performed”. However, the Advocate General underlines that “once a right to de-referencing within the EU has been established, the search engine operator must take every measure available to it to ensure full and effective de-referencing within the EU, including by use of the ‘geo-blocking’ technique, in respect of an IP address deemed to be located in one of the Member States, irrespective of the domain name used by the internet user who performs the search.” In conclusion, dealing with the specific case Advocate General Szpunar had the opportunity to point out that the fundamental right to be forgotten must be balanced against other fundamental rights, such as the right to data protection and the right to privacy, as well as the legitimate public interest in accessing the information sought, stating that, if worldwide de-referencing were permitted, the EU authorities would not be able to define and determine a right to receive information, let alone balance it against the other fundamental rights to data protection and to privacy.