Google will not be forced to delist search results of European citizens under the “right to be forgotten” across the world, EU judges have ruled, in a victory for the tech giant and internet freedom activists.

The European Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that Google’s delisting of search results that concerned EU citizens only applies in the bloc’s 28 member states rather than across its global domains.

The case is the first major ruling clarifying the geographical scope of the “right to be forgotten” principle which allows EU citizens to request delistings of information they deem to be “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive”.

In its judgment, the ECJ said that EU law did not automatically apply outside the bloc but that Google and other search engines should take measures which “discourage” internet users in the EU from carrying out searches that could lead to delisted links outside the bloc. Judges said member states would have to decide if Google was taking sufficient measures in this regard.

The case arose after Google challenged a €100,000 fine from France’s data protection regulator (CNIL), which ordered the search engine to delist material under the right to be forgotten across its global domains.

Google and civil liberties organisations have argued that global delisting is an impingement on free speech and would effectively be a way to enforce EU privacy standards in countries without similar laws.

Responding to the judgment, Peter Fleischer, senior privacy counsel at Google, said: “It’s good to see that the Court agreed with our arguments, and we’re grateful to the independent human rights organisations, media associations and many others around the world who also presented their views to the Court.”

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Via Financial Times