Google may be forced to remove material from its .com site as well as European ones

Europe wants 'right to be forgotten' extended worldwide

The EU wants the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ that allows people to remove content from the web to be extended globally by Internet search engines.

The privacy watchdogs of the EU’s member states yesterday agreed guidelines to help implement the ruling from the European Court of Justice that gives people the right to ask search engines to remove personal information that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".

So far Google, which dominates Internet searches in Europe, has been scrubbing results only from the European versions of its website such as in Germany or in France, meaning they still appear on

But European privacy regulators want Internet search engines such as Google and Microsoft's Bing to scrub results globally, not just in Europe, when people invoke their 'right to be forgotten'.

"From the legal and technical analysis we are doing, they should include the '.com'," said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, the head of France's privacy watchdog and the Article 29 Working Party of EU national data protection authorities, at a news conference.

A spokesman for Google said the company had not yet seen the guidelines but would "study them carefully" when they are published. Pierrotin said the guidelines should be published on Thursday or Friday.

The 'right to be forgotten' ruling and Google’s response have divided experts and privacy regulators, with some saying the web giant's current approach waters down the effectiveness of the ruling, given how easy it is to switch between different national versions.

It has also pitted privacy advocates against free-speech campaigners, who say allowing people to ask search engines to remove information would lead to a whitewashing of the past.

Google previously said that it believed search results should be removed only from its European versions since Google automatically redirects people to the local versions of its search engine.

The company has also argued that notifying publishers and media outlets when their stories are delisted from search results should be mandatory, but Pierrotin said this would not feature in the guidelines.

"There is no legal basis for routine transmission from Google or any other search engine to the editors. It may in some cases be necessary, but not as a routine and not as an obligation," she said.

Google's decision to notify press outlets and webmasters via email was criticised by regulators earlier this year for sometimes bringing people's names back into the open.

Wednesday's decision was another setback for Google, which is facing multiple investigations into its privacy policy and is mired in a four-year EU competition inquiry.

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