Google sets up 'right to be forgotten' form after EU ruling


Technology correspondent Dave Lee explains how the controversial system will work

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Google has launched a service to allow Europeans to ask for personal data to be removed from online search results.

The move comes after a landmark European Union court ruling earlier this month, which gave people the "right to be forgotten".

Links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased on request, it said.

Google said it would assess each request and balance "privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information".

"When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information," Google says on the form which applicants must fill in.

Case study - Brad from Derbyshire

"The story was relating to an offence of drinking and driving. A criminal conviction.

"But has it got any public interest that somebody was convicted of that several years ago? I don't think so."

'Google should forget me'


Google said it would look at information about "financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials" while deciding on the request.

Earlier this month, the BBC learned that more than half of the requests sent to Google from UK individuals involved convicted criminals.

This included a man convicted of possessing child abuse images who had also asked for links to pages about his conviction to be wiped.

'Fraudulent requests'

Google said information would start to be removed from mid-June and any results affected by the removal process would be flagged to searchers.

Decisions about data removal would be made by people rather than the algorithms that govern almost every other part of Google's search system.

Disagreements about whether information should be removed or not will be overseen by national data protection agencies.

Europe's data regulators are scheduled to meet on 3-4 June. The "right to forget" will be discussed at that gathering and could result in a statement about how those watchdogs will handle appeals.

Analysis - Rory Cellan-Jones

"Much of the comment online has been deeply sceptical about the right to be forgotten, particularly in the US where the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech would make this kind of ruling impossible.

Some have pointed out that information won't be removed from, just your local version of the search engine, while others question the sheer practicality."

Google agrees to forget


Information will only disappear from searches made in Europe. Queries piped through its sites outside the region will still show the contested data.

On 13 May, the EU's court of justice ruled that links to "irrelevant" and outdated data on search engines should be erased on request.

The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home, which appeared on Google's search results, infringed his privacy.

Less innovation?

On Friday, Google said that EU citizens who want their private details removed from the search engine will be able to do so by filling out an online form.

However, they will need to provide links to the material they want removed, their country of origin, and a reason for their request.

Individuals will also have to attach a valid photo identity.

"Google often receives fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information," the firm said.

"To prevent this kind of abuse, we need to verify identity."

However, in an interview given to the Financial Times, Google boss Larry Page said that although the firm would comply with the ruling, it could damage innovation.

He also said the regulation would give cheer to repressive regimes.

Mr Page said he regretted not being "more involved in a real debate" about privacy in Europe, and that the company would now try to "be more European".

But, he warned, "as we regulate the internet, I think we're not going to see the kind of innovation we've seen".

Mr Page added that the ruling would encourage "other governments that aren't as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things".

European Court of Justice, Luxembourg

People keen to get data removed from Google's index must:

  • Provide weblinks to the relevant material
  • Name their home country
  • Explain why the links should be removed
  • Supply photo ID to help Google guard against fraudulent applications
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  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    re 398 -
    I don't think I ever indicated I had the right to know everything about anyone - your argument seems to be I DON'T have the right to know anything about anyone, unless they want me to know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    If you think everyone has a right to know everything about everyone then broadcast your life 24/7 online.

    Remember the search engines are very incomplete, so not reliable anyway.

    If you really want to know what people are up to you need employ a private investigator. Expensive, but effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    re 396 - Jez -

    So I'm a criminal - agreed I am! - where in your view of this story can I now sign up to have it all hidden so no-one will ever know??

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    392 frankslad

    It's Peter Jones not James. It is public knowledge, he's not ashamed of it. Talks about having a mansion Porsche etc. one day and next day kids out of private school and sleeping on friends floor the next.

    Yes you are a criminal for the actions you have described. If it's not on google it shows how inaccurate google is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    #271 Justin150 "If Hitler was alived today what information would be deemed out of date or irrelevant?"

    That he had only one ball?

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    well it makes a nonsense of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 which sets periods of time after which you do not have to disclose a criminal conviction, you don't have to disclose it but google will or would prior to this

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.


    Thing is, the information about Peter Jones IS relevant, if I was considering investing in his business ventures and was not told that he had previous bankruptcy problems, I would feel a little concerned that the information was hidden from me.

    To be honest, the idea that CEO's who have failed in the past could hide that information adds another dimension of concern to the ruling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    re 391 - Jez - so - do you think Peter James prev bankruptcy should now be public knowledge - or should he be able to apply for it to be expunged!
    As for my crimes - sorry if you thought them newsworthy - I referred to 'crimes' - I scrumped apples (thief!) - I stole sixpence from my Grandma once (thrashed for it!) - I poached fishing rights (local stream) - sorry they are so boring - that's it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    390 frankslad

    It's not irrelevant. I didn't say it was. It's not relevant in the here and now.

    Peter Jones - the Dragon has been declared bankrupt in the past. Is that relevant now?

    Put your money where your mouth is. List your mistakes and get them published for anyone to google.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    re 389 Jez -
    The original case was about a guy who had his house repossessed -
    Was the info correct? - Yes it was!
    How is that irrelevant to his life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    378 frankslad

    List your mistakes and publish them for everyone to see via google.

    The original case was about a guy who had his house reposed many years ago. A Google search listed an article in a local paper at the time.

    The point is relevance to the here and now. Try Googling Nick Clegg - Germany. Is it relevant now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    see 325 for a library example - google is not a simple librarian, it publishes info from & about info previously published elsewhere on its own servers

    @352.Zed Not Zee
    reduces to only the originator of a libel is guilty but in UK, merely repeating a libel is libel - can't escape liability foir libel by claiming someone else said it first

    complete nonsense,,

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    This should only really apply to false information, you shouldn't really be able to deny access to accurate information because it is inconvenient, that's not a good precedent to set.

    Secondly, since the ruling also applies only to Google it is both unbalanced and poorly targeted, it is not Google that stores this information, and not just Google that finds it in a search.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    This ruling is a great blow against freedom of information and freedom of speech on the internet. A sad time for democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Bet they make a really simple process, not!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    re 382 Jez -
    'I doubt anyone wants everyone else to be able to see their mistakes. It's not about censorship.' - ?
    I've made some mistakes in my life I am uncomfortable with - but should they be hidden because of my discomfort - NO!
    They may not amount to anything earth shattering - but IF someone wanted to research them (God knows why) - they should be free to do so!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    The first amendment issue is bogus. Google is not saying anything. It is using a computer algorithm to direct an equiry to a list of locations that meet the details in the enquiry. Asking them to exclude specific links does not prevent the originator from publishing, it is not censorship, nothing has been redacted, but those with a specific interest who have the URL can still access the data

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Read George Orwell 1984

    I doubt anyone wants everyone else to be able to see their mistakes. It's not about censorship.

    Search engines don't like it because it undermines their business model and profits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Google etc. obtain and keep info on much of our lives background. Where we go (maps/phones) who we talk to and what we say to them (email), our interests and habits and so much more. We have no capacity to "opt out" any more. Think of the many little boxes of 1000s of Terms and Conditions you HAD TO agree with, just to access this service. Did you read them? Our right to privacy has been removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    No-one should have to remove links to data that is legally accurate or available/viewable.

    Zed not Zee was quite correct (352):
    A complainant's recourse should be against the publisher/host of the 'offending' website.

    Complainants should be required to show that they have used ALL reasonable endeavours to have the information removed BEFORE involving Google.


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