European Union: From The Right To Be Forgotten To The Right To An "e-Reputation’’: First Enforceability Ordered By French Court Under Penalty

A few months after the European Court of Justice ruled on May 13, 2014 that search engines are considered personal data controllers under the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995 and, as such, should provide data subjects with a right to be forgotten, a French Tribunal enforced this principle in X & Y v. Google France.

In a summary proceeding on September 16, 2014, the Paris Tribunal (Tribunal de Grande Instance) held that Google must erase from its search engine, under penalty of €1,000 per day, all links leading to defamatory content published on Facebook (see attached judgement:  TGI Paris – Ordonnance du 16 septembre 2014).

The two claimants had previously obtained a court ruling that certain Facebook comments constituted defamatory material.  Even after Facebook removed the content, Google searches returned the defamatory comments.  When the claimants asked Google to erase the links, the company replied that they must first complete the specific form implemented by the search engine to request deletion of their information from search results.

As a result, the claimants filed suit against Google France to enforce their right to be forgotten.

In order to oppose the claim, Google France argued that:

  • it was not a data controller because its objective was only to provide marketing services to clientele using advertising services and not to perform any editorial activity or operate websites;
  • that the company liable for website was actually Google Inc. which had issued a specific form to request delisting of information; and
  • in any case, French court did not have jurisdiction to order erasure measures beyond those related to the search engine and intended for a French audience.

However, using the same reasoning as the European Court of Justice, the Paris Tribunal dismissed Google's arguments.

In that ruling, the European Court held that an individual is entitled to require search engines to remove links and URLs from the list of results displayed following a search of that person's name.  This means that to enforce the right to be forgotten, an individual does not have to request the deletion of content by a website editor, but can make the request directly to the search engines instead, thereby making the content more difficult to locate on the Internet.

The Paris Tribunal found that: Google Inc. operated the search engine; Google France was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google Inc.; and Google France serves to promote advertising space to ensure the profitability of Google Inc.'s search engine.  As a result, the principles enacted by the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995 apply to Google France.  To justify its reasoning, the Paris Tribunal quoted the May 2014 holding of the European Court of Justice in stating that a subsidiary of Google Inc. established in a European Member State acts as the company's representative in the Member State, because the activities of parent and subsidiary are indivisible.

According to the Paris Tribunal, the plaintiffs' claims could not be limited solely to the links returned on because Google France did not demonstrate the impossibility of connecting from within French territory by using other domains of Google's search engine.

By rendering this ruling, the Paris Tribunal showed its willingness to give full effect to the right to be forgotten and consecrates a right to an ''e-reputation" and delisting in France.  But, it also suggests that subsidiaries of a search engine could be legally liable for all erasure requests – including those directed at its parent company – pursuant to data protection law.  This signals a possible deviation from traditional corporate law principles that generally respect the distinct boundaries between companies.

This being said, the right to be forgotten is not a new right under French data protection law.  Indeed, article 40 of French Data Protection Act of January 6, 1978 sets forth that "any individual providing proof of identity may ask the data controller to, as the case may be, rectify, complete, update, block or delete personal data relating to him that are inaccurate, incomplete, equivocal, expired, or whose collection, usage, disclosure or storage is prohibited."

Nevertheless, this ruling raises concerns regarding the reach and application of the right to be forgotten.  Indeed, the right to be forgotten is not absolute and the European Court of Justice clarified that it must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, accounting for the extent to which the right interferes with the economic interests of search engines.

The ruling also raises the question of how the right to be forgotten should be applied across geographic boundaries.  If search engines are required to erase certain data despite location, search engines could expose themselves to subsequent lawsuits in the event that foreign courts find that data should not have been erased under their own local laws.

However, very recently, Article 29 Group, the body representing the 28 Data Protection Agencies of the EU Member States, issued a set of guidelines on the implementation of the right to be forgotten to evaluate compliance with data protection law and encourage search engines to apply the right to be forgotten across all of their websites and not only to European domains.

The issues surrounding the implementation of the right to be forgotten are just beginning.

From The Right To Be Forgotten To The Right To An "e-Reputation'': First Enforceability Ordered By French Court Under Penalty

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.