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Friday 29 August 2014

Google starts to remove search results as part of EU ruling

Adrian Weckler

Published 26/06/2014 | 14:36

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Google has been told it must delete information if EU citizens request it to do so
Google has been told it must delete information if EU citizens request it to do so

Google has begun removing search results for individuals in the first wave of redactions to meet its obligations under the European Court Of Justice’s ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ ruling.

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The move, which only affects searches conducted within Ireland and the EU, is to facilitate individuals who believe that search queries based on their name may return outdated or irrelevant results. The ruling contains a ‘public interest’ exception, which Google must initially decide upon.

"This week we're starting to take action on the removals requests that we've received," said a Google spokesman. "This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually, and we're working as quickly as possible to get through the queue."

The spokesman declined to say how many requests Google has received to remove search results. However, the company said that it received 41,000 requests within a week of the European Court Of Justice ruling, handed down on May 13th.

To let people know of the move, Google has added a footnote to some search pages. “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe,” says the footnote. The note is applied widely to personal searches without verifying whether a search result has actually been removed.

“When you search for a name, you may see a notice that says that results may have been modified in accordance with data protection law in Europe,” says a guidance note from Google. “We’re showing this notice in Europe when a user searches for most names, not just pages that have been affected by a removal.

The ruling by the European Court Of Justice has been criticised by media companies and freedom of expression activists, who say that the move amounts to creeping censorship. However, it has been welcomed by privacy lobbyists, who say that it will give people more control over what people can discover online about them.

Google says that it will assess each request individually.

“You'll receive an automatic reply confirming that we have received your request,” says its guidance note. “In evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about your private life. We'll also look at whether there's a public interest in the information remaining in our search results—for example, if it relates to financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions or your public conduct as a government official (elected or unelected). These are difficult judgements and as a private organisation, we may not be in a good position to decide on your case.”

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