LONDON — Europe’s highest court limited the reach of the landmark online privacy law known as “right to be forgotten” on Tuesday, restricting people’s ability to control what information is available about them on the internet.
In a decision with broad implications for the regulation of the internet, the European Court of Justice ruled that the privacy rule cannot be applied outside the European Union. French authorities had sought to force Google and other search engines to remove links to users globally.
The decision more carefully defines the scope of the right to be forgotten, which is a centerpiece of the European Union’s internet privacy laws. The standard, which was established in 2014, can be used to force Google and other search engines to delete links to websites, news articles and databases that include personal information considered old, no longer relevant or not in the public interest.
The decision is likely to head off international disputes over the reach of European laws outside the 28-nation bloc. The court said Europe could not impose the right to be forgotten on countries that do not recognize the law.
The case cannot be appealed, and national courts across the European Union must abide by the decision.
“The balance between right to privacy and protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world,” the court said in its decision.
The court said the right to be forgotten “is not an absolute right.”
Google praised the decision. “Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s senior privacy counsel, said in a statement. “It’s good to see that the Court agreed with our arguments.”