Google Gets Record Belgian Privacy Fine Over ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

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Google was fined a record 600,000 euros ($681,400) by Belgium’s data protection authority for failing to delete links regulators deemed harmful to a person’s reputation under the European Union’s right to be forgotten.

Google was “grossly negligent” by refusing to remove the links to news articles that the authority said involved unproven harassment incidents more than 10 years ago, according to an emailed statement on Tuesday.

The Belgian authority said the fine was the highest it has ever imposed. It backed a complaint by an unidentified person who “plays a role in Belgian public life” and sought to remove links to a complaint on harassment and what regulators called “political labeling.”

Google has been fighting several European privacy regulators over the so-called right to be forgotten following a 2014 European Union court ruling that forced the U.S. tech giant to remove European links to websites that contain out of date or false information that could unfairly harm a person’s reputation.

“We didn’t believe this case met the European Court of Justice’s criteria for delisting published journalism from search -- we thought it was in the public’s interest that this reporting remain searchable,” Google said in an emailed statement.

The Alphabet Inc. unit said it plans to challenge the Belgian authority’s decision in court, saying it has worked “to strike a sensible, principled balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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