French watchdog to Google: Remove ‘right to be forgotten’ results globally

French watchdog to Google: Remove 'right to be forgotten' results globally

PARIS: Google must scrub search results worldwide when it agrees to requests from users to be “forgotten,” rather than just from European versions of its website, France’s data protection regulator said on Friday.

The regulator (CNIL) said in a statement that if Google does not comply within 15 days, it can launch a process leading to sanctions, ramping up pressure on the US giant following a landmark European legal ruling.

In May last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that European residents can ask search engines to delete results that turn up under a search for their name when they are out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory — the so-called right to be forgotten.

Since then, Google and other search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo have begun to grant de-listing requests when they meet certain criteria.

But there has been much debate over the implementation, especially of Google’s decision only to scrub results from European sites, leading some to appeal to local regulators.

The company maintains it should only apply the ruling across its European domains, such as Google.fr in France and Google.de in Germany.

But EU data protection watchdogs, many legal experts and former German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who has advised Google on privacy following the European ruling, think it should be global.

Some individuals have taken Google to court to try to force a change. They include Dan Shefet, a French lawyer born in Denmark, who won a defamation case in a French court recently that experts say called for the results to be scrubbed globally.

“In accordance with the (European court) judgment, the CNIL considers that in order to be effective, de-listing must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine and that the service provided by Google search constitutes a single processing,” the CNIL regulator said.

France is the first country to open a potential sanctions process against Google if it does not change its position. But the powers of the CNIL remain limited, since it can only impose fines of up to 150,000 euros ($168,000).

The Mountain View, California-based Google had revenue of $66 billion last year.

A Google spokesman said the company had been cooperating closely with data protection authorities and was seeking the right balance in applying the European Court’s decision.

“The ruling focused on services directed to European users, and that’s the approach we are taking in complying with it,” said the spokesman.

Sears Reports Smaller 1Q Loss but Sales Keep Sliding

Earns Sears
Sears Holdings reported a smaller first-quarter loss as it cut advertising and other costs, but sales continued to tumble, underscoring the need for a big cash injection that the struggling retailer said would materialize next month.

The company expects its plan to spin off 235 Sears and Kmart stores into a real estate investment trust to be approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, paving the way for a rights offering to sell shares in the REIT to existing shareholders Friday.

The retailer, which has lost $7 billion over the past four years, expects to receive about $2.6 billion in proceeds from the sale early in July.

That deal, if accomplished, should buy Sears time to pursue a revival strategy that involves a loyalty program and shrinking its presence to its best-performing stores.

Still, that strategy has yet to produce profitable results for the retailer, which reported its 12th straight quarterly loss.

For the quarter ended May 2, net loss attributable to shareholders was $303 million, or $2.85 a share, following a loss of $402 million, or $3.79 a share, a year earlier.

Overall revenue slumped 25 percent to $5.88 billion, reflecting the sale of most of its stake in its Canadian operations, the spinoff of the Lands’ End (LE) clothing chain and the closure of stores.

Still, shares of Sears (SHLD) jumped 4 percent in premarket trading.

It reported a sharp drop of 10.9 percent at comparable stores open at least year, a key measure of retail performance. Sales at Kmart fell 7 percent, while Sears’ sales slid 14.5 percent, hit by falls in key categories like appliances, apparel and auto centers.

Sears said some of the decline was expected as it shrinks operations. Apparel was also hurt by supply disruptions due to a slowdown at ports in the West Coast, the company said.

Sears said it was in talks with lenders to extend a revolving credit facility, due to expire in April 2016, to 2020. It has already reached agreement with three lenders representing $1.175 billion in commitments, it said. The size of the facility would likely decrease to about $2 billion from $3.275 billion.

Sears was seeking a smaller lending framework because it has fewer stores, a larger online presence, and less need for financing due to decreased inventory levels, Chief Financial Officer Rob Schriesheim said on a pre-recorded conference call.