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EU Privacy Regulators Invite Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to Discuss Right to Be Forgotten

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EU privacy officials plan to raise concerns about Google’s implementation of the May EU Court of Justice ruling regarding the “right to be forgotten” on the internet in a meeting next week, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday. The EU’s 28 national privacy regulators and the main group have invited Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to a meeting in Brussels next Thursday to discuss the ruling and its execution.

The organization met earlier this week to discuss guidelines for the right to be forgotten decision it intends to issue this fall.

While Google and Yahoo have said they plan to cooperate with officials, only Microsoft has confirmed it plans to attend the meeting. Microsoft recently followed Google’s lead by instituting an online request form to comply with the ruling. Google instituted the form in May closely following the ruling. By the end of June, it had received over 70,000 requests.

With the ruling’s vague guidelines regarding a balance between the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy it has been difficult for search companies to comply with the ruling. Links that are being removed are up to the discretion of the search engine. Google’s initial attempts at removal were met with public outcry which forced the search engine to restore some of the links it had previously removed.

http://hiddenfromgoogle.com

http://hiddenfromgoogle.com

A domain name called http://hiddenfromgoogle.com/ was registered July 4 by Afaq Tariq to begin keeping track of deleted links.

“The purpose of this site is to list all links which are being censored by search engines due to the recent ruling of ‘Right to be forgotten’ in the EU,” the site says. “This list is a way of archiving the actions of censorship on the Internet. It is up to the reader to decide whether our liberties are being upheld or violated by the recent rulings by the EU.”

Since it appears the site is only set up to accept submissions of links that are removed rather than track them in a more systematic way it’s unclear whether it will be useful as links being removed increase to thousands.

So far Google has only removed links from European search sites. Results remain on the US based Google.com. This has been of concern among regulators in Germany and elsewhere, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s a problem we’ve clearly identified,” Gwendal Le Grand, director of technology and innovation at French watchdog Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés told the Wall Street Journal. “It puts the effectiveness of the entire decision in question.”

The Internet has been full of discussion about freedom of speech, censorship and online privacy in the wake of the EU court ruling.

“The very notion of government imposing a statute of limitations on free speech rights is creepy. The rules associated with such a regime would be nightmarish, and they would undoubtedly set off a stampede of politicians and other powerful people trying to sanitize their pasts,” the editorial board at USA Today said.

Javier Ruiz, Policy Director for lobbyist Open Rights Group told to the Telegraph, “We need to take into account individuals’ right to privacy but if search engines are forced to remove links to legitimate content that is already in the public domain but not the content itself, it could lead to online censorship. This case has major implications for all kind of internet intermediaries, not just search engines.”

The EU External Freedom of Expression Policy released in May by WikiLeaks and could have future bearing on this issue. The introduction addresses some of the concerns facing the EU after this “right to be forgotten” ruling.

“Technological in information and communications have created new opportunities for individuals to disseminate information to a mass audience, and have had important impact on the participation and contribution of citizens in decisions making processes. These innovations have also brought new challenges. All human rights that exist offline, in particular the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to privacy.”

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