Right to be forgotten still applying only to European websites

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Google, the biggest search engine provider, is currently removing only search results from European websites when individuals invoke their “right to be forgotten”. This can create unfair competition, as the right to be forgotten does not apply to online merchants with non-European domains for their website.

Burdens for European online merchants
Ecommerce Europe welcomed, as reported earlier, that the approach adopted by European policy makers on the right to be forgotten should not pose too heavy administrative burdens for online merchants. They already have a wide range of legal obligations to keep data on transactions, for example for taxes or consumer warranty. Therefore, it would be more burdensome for them to erase consumers’ data at any time, while other online merchants with non-European domains, such as Alibaba, are not subject to the right to be forgotten.

European regulators’ guidelines
Google has consistently argued that it believes the ruling should only apply to its European websites, such as Google.de in Germany or Google.fr in France. According to the (non-binding) European regulators’ guidelines, Google and the other search providers are supposed to scrub results globally because of the ease of switching from a European domain to Google.com. However, Google is expected to review its approach when a group of experts publishes a report on last year’s court judgment at the end of this month. Between September and November 2014, an advisory council set up by Google held public meetings across Europe to debate the balance between privacy and the free flow of information.

Next steps
The right to be forgotten is going to be included in the European Data Protection reform, but many steps are still needed before the new European data protection regulation will come into force, probably not before 2016. Ecommerce Europe stays closely in contact with the European Institutions to ensure the interests of the e-commerce sector are taken into account during the process and will continue to recommend policy makers to create a level playing field in the e-commerce sector.

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