Google Swamped With ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Requests

censor gag free speech right to be forgotten silence © Alexandru Logel Shutterstock

Google inundated with 12,000 requests to remove weblinks after belatedly allowing ‘right to be forgotten’

Google has opened the floodgates to people who wish the search engine to remove search results about themselves – and promptly received 12,000 removal requests in the first day after it posted an online application form late last week.

Last Friday, Google belatedly placed the form online for people wishing to request the removal of links about themselves, to comply with European requirements for a “right to be forgotten”. People have to enter their personal details, provide photo ID, and give examples of the offending live links and why the links should be removed.

Censorship by the masses?

censorship, prison © Michelangelus Shutterstock 2012Google’s move follows a European court ruling last month, when the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled that search engine operators were responsible for links to web pages that contain personal information. It ruled that Google and others must remove such links on request of the information owners.

That landmark ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten‘ was seen as a victory for privacy campaigners, but others argue that it opens the door to online censorship. Google and Facebook have long been fighting the measure.

And now according to Reuters, within hours of placing the form online last Friday, Google received 12,000 requests across Europe in one day, sometimes averaging 20 per minute.

Prior to publishing the form, Google admitted it was already dealing with many requests from individuals to remove hyperlinks to articles about themselves. And it should be remembered that even if the person is successful in removing a link in Google’s search results, it does not actually remove the page from the Internet.

It seems that most of the link removal requests are from people citing links to articles about fraud or scams (31 percent) and another major reason (20 percent) is arrests or convictions for serious offences. Most of the requests have so far come from Germany (40 percent), followed by Spain (14 percent), the UK (13 percent), and Italy (3 percent) and France (2 percent).

Google’s chief executive, Larry Page, warned last week in an interview with the Financial Times, that the EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling risks granting repressive governments more control over the internet,

Unfounded Fears?

Page also said he was worried what affect the ruling would have on democracy over time, citing the example of politicians or celebrities trying to remove unflattering links about themselves.

But the development has been welcomed by one of the measure’s most vocal supporters, namely European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding.

“It is a good development that Google has announced that it will finally take the necessary measures to respect European law,” said Reding. “It was about time since European data protection laws exist since 1995. It took the European Court of Justice to say so. The right to be forgotten and the right to free information are not foes but friends.”

She added that the European Commission would now need to look into how the announced tool will work in practice.

“The move demonstrates that fears of practical impossibility raised before were unfounded,” she said.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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