Google case set to examine if EU data rules extend globally

Google is taking its legal fight against an order requiring it to extend "right to be forgotten" rules to its search engines globally to Europe's top court. (AP File Photo)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Google case set to examine if EU data rules extend globally

LONDON: Google is going to Europe's top court in its legal fight against an order requiring it to extend "right to be forgotten" rules to its search engines globally.
The technology giant is set for a showdown at the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday with France's data privacy regulator over an order to remove search results worldwide upon request.
The dispute pits data privacy concerns against the public's right to know, while also raising thorny questions about how to enforce differing legal jurisdictions when it comes to the borderless internet.
The two sides will be seeking clarification on a 2015 decision by the French regulator requiring Google to remove results for all its search engines on request, and not just on European country sites like google.fr.
Google declined to comment ahead of the hearing. Its general counsel, Kent Walker, said in a blog post in November that complying with the order "would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world."
"These cases represent a serious assault on the public's right to access lawful information," he added.
In an unusual move, the court has allowed a collection of press freedom, free speech and civil rights groups to submit their opinions on the case. These groups agree with Google that forcing internet companies to remove website links threatens access to information and could pave the way for censorship by more authoritarian regimes such as China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The court's ruling is expected within months. It will be preceded by an opinion from the court's advocate general.
The case stems from a landmark 2014 Court of Justice ruling that people have the right to control what appears when their name is searched online. That decision forced Google to delete links to outdated or embarrassing personal information that popped up in searches of their names.
Authorities are now starting to worry about the risk that internet users can easily turn to proxy servers and virtual private networks to spoof their location, allowing them to dig up the blocked search results.
Google said in its most recent transparency report that it has received requests to delete about 2.74 million web links since the ruling, and has deleted about 44 percent of them.
Not all requests are waved through. In a related case that will also be heard Tuesday, the EU court will be asked to weigh in on a request by four people in France who want their search results to be purged of any information about their political beliefs and criminal records, without taking into account public interest. Google had rejected their request, which was ultimately referred to the ECJ.


How new criminal laws threaten Nepal journalism

A Nepalese roadside vendor reads the news in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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How new criminal laws threaten Nepal journalism

  • The codes prohibit publishing private information, including of officials, ban recording without permission and require photographers to obtain permits in order to take pictures and sell and publish them

KATMANDU, Nepal: Journalists in Nepal are demanding changes to new criminal and civil codes they say undermine freedom of speech and expression.
The laws that took effect last month are general codes of conduct that apply to all citizens of Nepal, but press freedom groups say harsher sentences for libel and privacy violations are having a chilling effect on journalists in the small Himalayan country. Here are some details:
WHY THE NEW LAWS CAME ABOUT
Nepal’s new civil and criminal codes are the result of a new constitution adopted in 2015. Nepalese lawmakers had three years to design a set of laws that prescribe how the constitution should be interpreted. The codes cover everything from stipulating the legal age of marriage to enshrining property rights and describe how each civil violation or crime can be punished.
WHY THEY ARE CONTROVERSIAL
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression. But provisions of the new codes appear to limit these freedoms, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “Nepal’s new criminal code marks a giant step backward for press freedom,” program coordinator Steven Butler said in a statement. For example, the codes make criticizing the president or members of Parliament criminal acts. The codes also prohibit publishing private information, including of officials, ban recording without permission and require photographers to obtain permits in order to take pictures and sell and publish them. The codes say that authorities can detain suspects for up to 40 days while investigating criminal charges. “Now journalists will be first detained and treated like murder suspects even before they are tried or given a chance to clarify,” said Ramesh Bistra, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, which has vowed to fight for the codes to be amended. The codes also ban satire, which in Nepal has been a prominent feature in the press and a popular form of protest throughout the country’s changing forms of government — from monarchy to autocratic rule to constitutional monarchy to the republic established in 2007.
CHILLING EFFECT
Press freedom groups say the language of the laws is broad enough to be used as a tool to attack journalists and deter them from doing their work. The four sections on privacy and defamation decree sentences of up to three years in prison and $260 in fines. Previously, journalists could be fined up to $217 for libel. “These new laws have created an environment of fear for the journalists and more and more of them are now practicing self-censorship,” said Taranath Dahal, who heads the Freedom Forum, a Nepal-based media rights group.
GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE
In response to journalists’ protests, the Nepalese government has formed a committee to recommend changes to the codes’ language. This committee, with representatives from several media rights groups and unions, has been given 45 days to come up with recommendations. The government, however, is not obliged to follow them. Even if the government accepts the changes, lawmakers would have to draft amendments, which would then have to be debated in Parliament before changes could be made. This could take months if not years in Nepal. Until then, the controversial new codes remain in effect.