The digital world is a world with virtually unlimited memory, equipped with connected brains that can process all this recorded information. Everything that we do publicly, everything that is published by ourselves or others, is harvested data that can be offered to algorithms.
This has enabled tremendous technical progress, and it will undoubtedly serve the humankind, if we keep caring about the rights and interests of each individual human being. As a search engine, we bare a strong responsibility to ensure that we do. Sometimes, when people type your name on a search engine, they can be provided with results that you’d rather not have them see. The question is, should you have a right to have those results erased?
In 2014, the European Court of Justice decided in the “Google Spain” decision that yes, you should have that right, as far as the information you’d rather have hidden is not so important that the public should have a right to know. Since then, every European citizen and every user of a search engine implanted in Europe has the “right to be forgotten” (RTBF).
In 2016, the European Union adopted the famous General Data Protection Rules (GDPR), and reaffirmed the existence of the RTBF. Article 17 of the GDPR states that under some conditions, people have the “right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay”.
But one question was, should this have an impact on Internet users who try to find information about you, when they are not located in the European Union? What should prevail, between the right of the European individual to have his or her personal data hidden, and the right of a non-European to access this information anyway, because the RTBF is not recognized in his or her country?
The French data protection authority, the CNIL, ruled that the RTBF should be respected no matter where the user searches from. Google fought this decision, saying that it should apply only to the searches of users located inside the EU, so that the European law does not overreach its boundaries.
This September 24th, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google was right in limiting the reach of the RTBF. So if you are a European citizen, you can have results hidden in the European editions of the search engine but you can’t impose that it be respected on all the others.
While we understand and respect the legal reasoning, Qwant today reaffirms its commitment to apply your right to be forgotten globally. We recognize that we have a duty to fully respect your privacy, whether or not you are a user of Qwant, and that this right should be respected no matter your location or the location of our users. If you are a European citizen, we believe that your right to privacy and therefore your right to delisting should accompany your virtual self no matter where it is accessed from. It is a right that is attached to you as a person.
So when we receive your request for delisting and find your request to be legitimate based on your right to privacy, the results you ask us to hide are hidden anytime our users search for your name, regardless of the geographic region it is searched from.