Google has defied an order from France's privacy watchdog to scrub search results worldwide when users invoke their 'right to be forgotten' online.
A ruling from the European Court of Justice last May stated that European residents can ask Internet search engines to delete results that turn up under a search for their name when they are out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory.
In June the French data protection authority, the CNIL, ordered US-based Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person's name from all its websites, including Google.com.
But while the company has complied with the ruling, accepting 41 per cent of the more than a quarter of a million removal requests it has received, it has limited removals to its European websites, such as Google.de in Germany or Google.fr in France.
The firm argues that over 95 per cent of searches made from Europe are done through local versions of Google, but it also made a stand in a blog post yesterday, by saying no country should have control over what data people in other countries can access.
"We've worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten ruling thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe, and we'll continue to do so," wrote Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel. "But as a matter of principle, therefore, we respectfully disagree with the CNIL's assertion of global authority on this issue and we have asked the CNIL to withdraw its formal notice."
Google warned that applying the right to be forgotten globally would trigger a "race to the bottom" where "the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place".
The CNIL has said it would look into Google's appeal and decide whether to accept it in two months, but any fines it would face in the case of a rejection are likely to be small compared with the company's turnover.
"We have taken note of Google's arguments which are partly of a political nature. The CNIL, on the other hand, has relied on a strictly legal reasoning," said a spokeswoman.
The search engine's stance was upheld in February by a group of experts appointed by the company to guide it on how to apply the landmark ruling. "Global de-listing remains too controversial without an international agreement," said Luciano Floridi, a professor at Oxford University who was on the panel advising Google.
However, European regulators and some legal experts think Google ought to apply the ruling globally as it is too easy to circumvent it by switching from one version of Google to another.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.