Google Belatedly Offers Right To Be Forgotten Option

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Google offers a form for people seeking to remove search results about themselves

Google is now offering an online form for those people who wish the search engine to remove search results about themselves.

This follows a European court ruling earlier this 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.

Belated Response

censorship zipped lip © Nomad_Soul ShutterstockThe landmark ruling 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 but now have no choice but to comply.

Google’s online  form requires 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.

“In implementing this decision, we will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information,” said Google. “When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information – for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.”

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. Google has made no secret of its concerns about this issue, which seen intense lobbying from the US of European lawmakers.

Censorship Worries

Google CEO Larry Page told the Financial Times that he regretted having not gotten more involved in the public debate in Europe around the issue. “That’s one of the things we’ve taken from this, that we’re starting the process of really going and talking to people,” he said.

Page 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.

“I’m a public figure; there are lots of things that are written about me I’m sure aren’t true,” Page reportedly said. “I kind of deal with that because I’m used to it, I guess.”

Google of course already deals with requests from individuals to remove search results about themselves.

Meanwhile, according to the Daily Telegraph, 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).

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