Google Canada has lost its bid for an exemption from federal privacy law for its search engine results, raising the possibility that a digital “right to be forgotten” may be recognized in Canadian law.
In a decision last week Federal Court Associate Chief Justice Joanne Gagne dismissed Google’s arguments that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) doesn’t apply to its search engine results because the search side of the company isn’t a commercial enterprise, and because search results are used for journalism. PIPEDA’s obligations don’t apply to journalistic endeavors.
Google lost on both counts. “Google promotes its advertising business by highlighting the popularity of its search engine,” the judge wrote at one point. Even if it provides free services to content providers and the user of the search engine, “it has a flagrant commercial interest in connecting these two players,” she added. It is a commercial entity, the judge concluded.
As for asking for an exemption based on PIPEDA’s journalism exception, the judge said Google isn’t a publisher. It has no control over the content of search results, the search results themselves express no opinion, and Google does not create the content of the search results.
The case started in June 2017 with a complaint before the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC), and, unless Google Canada appeals, it will go back there for more…