Google is now making it easy to be forgotten on the Internet. It has taken new steps to comply with the May 13 ruling by the European Court of Justice that gives people the right to request old information be removed from search engines. The “right to be forgotten” case came through the EU Court of Justice after originally being heard in Spain in 2011.
Google began fielding requests to be “forgotten” immediately after the ruling was announced. It processes more than 90 percent of the web searches in Europe. Initial requests for link removal came mainly from cases in which it wasn’t clear whether the right to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know. Among the requests were a murderer, a politician with a questionable record and a doctor with bad online reviews.
It remains to be seen if this ruling is even reasonable or realistic given that in the US the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech. Links will only be removed from local search engines so although the EU is guaranteeing the “right to be forgotten” this really only applies to the right to be forgotten in one’s own country.
The New York Times said, “While industry experts had speculated that Google would enforce the legal ruling in all of the countries where it operates, the company said on Friday that the Internet form would apply only to its search engines within the European Union. Links, for example, would be taken down from European domains like google.de, but still could be found on the American site google.com.
Javier Ruiz, Policy Director for lobbyist Open Rights Group told 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.”
In the weeks following the ruling it was unclear as to how Google might handle such requests. The ruling did not clearly define methods for determining whether links should be removed. The court simply said search engines should honor requests to remove information that was “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
According to the BBC, “Google has also set up a commission of the great and good people like the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, to oversee the whole process.”
A Reuters report said, “Google said it has convened a committee of senior Google executives and independent experts to try and craft a long-term approach to dealing with what’s expected to be a barrage of requests from the EU’s 500 million citizens.”
According to the report, Google will have to make difficult judgements about an individual’s right to be forgotten and the public’s right to know.
On Thursday Google released an online form to request the “right to be forgotten.” Google said that its “compliance and attempt to follow the ruling may have implications on future policy and legislation. Momentum is building in Europe to adopt an even more far-reaching privacy laws. Already under negotiation by lawmakers is a policy that includes a tougher so-called right to be forgotten, or ‘erasure’ as it is termed in draft legislation, that also would apply to companies like Facebook.”