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ALA writes to French council on information access

Yesterday, ALA submitted a letter to the Conseil d’État (Council of State) in France regarding Google’s appeal of the decision of the Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) implementing a ruling of the European Court of Justice. This decision concerns Google, Inc. and the issue commonly known as the “right to be forgotten” (RTBF). Some of you will recall our program at the 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting on the RTBF, which compels search engine companies to have links to certain personal information removed from search results on their names.

Google search result: Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.
ALA submitted a letter to the Council of State in France regarding Google’s appeal of the decision to implement a ruling of the European Court of Justice.

To implement this ruling, CNIL insists that Google must delist not only from but from other instances of the search engine, including ALA has several concerns about this interpretation that center around extraterritoriality. That is, the nature of information access (e.g., via by persons within the territory of the United States would be involuntarily determined, in part, by the French Government, which we find to be inconsistent with the professional norms of librarianship and likely federal law.

The decision as proposed would damage libraries and other cultural institutions in the U.S. In our letter, we urge that it be revisited and serious consideration given to accepting Google’s framework already in place for qualifying requests under this ruling. Specifically:

  • Google delists from all European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) domains of the Google search engine; and
  • Google delists from other versions of the Google search engine, including, when they are accessed from within the country of residence of the complainant.

The ALA letter was the result of efforts by the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the ALA Washington Office, with valuable contributions from Tomas Lipinski of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and Jim Neal, ALA President-elect, and review and endorsement by ALA President Julie Todaro. Thanks to all!

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Alan Inouye

Alan S. Inouye is the director of ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy. Previously, he was the coordinator of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee in the Executive Office of the President and a study director at the National Academy of Sciences. Alan completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

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