The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, France’s data protection authority, rejected Google’s appeal against a French order to apply the right to be forgotten to all of its global Internet services and domains. According to the CNIL’s president also “this decision does not show any willingness on the part of the CNIL to apply French law extraterritorially. It simply requests full observance of European legislation by non European players offering their services in Europe.”
Google’s representatvies of course disagrees with CNIL’s stance. In a blog post regarding the case, the Google’s privacy chief, Peter Fleischer, wrote: “If the CNIL’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place. We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access.”
As far as CNIL is concerned, Google must now comply with its order. “Otherwise, the President of the CNIL may designate a Rapporteur who may refer to the CNIL’s sanctions committee with a view of obtaining a ruling on this matter.” Those sanctions could be severe. According to The Guardian: “CNIL will likely begin to apply sanctions including the possibility of a fine in the region of €300,000 against Google, should the company refuse to comply with the order. Under incoming French regulation the fine could increase to between 2% and 5% of global operating costs.” For 2014, Google’s total operating costs were just under $50 billion, so potentially the fine could be from $1 billion to $2.5 billion.
If Google is fined by CNIL in this way, it can then make a formal appeal to the French supreme court for administrative justice and argue its case in detail. Since important issues are at stake for both the company and the Internet itself, and the French government is unlikely to back down in its threat to impose fines, it seems very likely that Google will end up taking this route.