Google v CNIL: Advocate General agrees global “right to be forgotten” orders pose risk to freedom of expression

11 Jan 2019

The Court of Justice of the European Union has published the Advocate General’s Opinion in Case C-507/17 Google Inc v Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertes (CNIL).

In his opinion, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar advised that de-referencing requests under the CJEU’s decision in Google Spain v Gonzales et al (the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’) do not oblige Google and other search providers to de-list search results on a global basis. Among other things, the Advocate General agreed with the submissions of the third party interveners that global de-referencing posed a grave risk to freedom of expression:

[T]here is a danger that the Union will prevent people in third countries from accessing information. If an authority within the Union could order a global deference, a fatal signal would be sent to third countries, which could also order a dereferencing under their own laws. …. There is a real risk of reducing freedom of expression to the lowest common denominator across Europe and the world.

The Advocate General’s opinion substantially adopts the submissions of the interveners ARTICLE 19, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and 5 other digital rights organisations, who were represented before the CJEU by Gerry Facenna QC, Eric Metcalfe and M. Guillaume Tapie of the Paris Bar.

The Opinion has received international news coverage, including The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, and The Washington Post. The Court’s press release on the Opinion is available here. The Judgment of the Court of Justice is expected later in 2019.