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Links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased on request, it said.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"When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information," Google says on the form which applicants must fill in.

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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'

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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.

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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 google.com, just your local version of the search engine, while others question the sheer practicality."

Google agrees to forget

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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".

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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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Comments

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  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 19.

    "queries piped through its sites outside the region will still show the contested data"

    So no issue at all to circumvent and proving yet again the limited technical understanding courts et al have.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    I thought the idea of shame and guilt had all but gone in our culture. Clearly I could be mistaken....

  • rate this
    +48

    Comment number 17.

    Pointless censorship.
    Google isn't the internet. Removing a link will only make it slightly harder to find the information (maybe through another search engine).
    If someone wants something removed they should contact the admin of the site that hosts the information.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 16.

    Okay, here's a question: who here HASN'T said or done something they would rather not be brought up again? Our parents and grandparents were safe from the stupidity of their past - now, your teenage idiocy is burned forever into the internet for all to see.

    We need this legislation. We need to be allowed to forget our past mistakes and move on from them.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 15.

    .
    Perhaps an enterprising group of hackers will publish the redacted list?

    It is surely in the public interest to see what folk want to hide.

    Google will need to have a file of the bits to be hidden. An easy target.....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    Pointless.

    When are the old pensioners at the EU going to realise it makes no difference if Google remove it from their search results! Its still out there, I can just use one of the hundreds of other search engines to find the same info. Way to waste out money EU.....again!!

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 13.

    The actual information will never be deleted, only the links. So probably only the police, NSA, GCHQ, and anyone who works for Murdoch press will be able to gain access to it. There will probably be a dodgy link restore website opening soon.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 12.

    Data Protection Act requires that data is accurate, up to date etc etc etc. Doesn't protect data outside of EU zone, and quite limited in it. Don't expect Google to do anything because who knows where it's actual base is and US law isn't a global one either.

    Remember Gary McKinnon though and don't dare snoop in dark corners or your UK government will allow you to be disappeared permanently.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 11.

    This is not a right to be forgotten; it's the exact opposite. If you don't apply to be "forgotten" then someone may find information you don't want them to have. If you do want to apply to be "forgotten" then everything you want to keep private will be trawled through by the very people you want to hide it from.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 10.

    Get your forms quick before the politicians hear about it.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 9.

    Perhaps Google will now pay some UK Corporation Tax.

    Ooh look, a pink pig just flew past the window.....

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 8.

    Really its not down to Google to remove links.
    The websites themselves should be made to remove "harmful" or "out of date" information.
    What about Bing, Yahoo, and all the other search engines that may not be as widely known as google but offer the same service.
    A ruling for stupidity and assumptions, and a potential date to mark as one of the causes/effects of the removal of freedom on the net

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 7.

    I AM IN TWO MINDS ABOUT THIS

    Is this the respect of privacy for individuals, or a place of people who have done bad deeds to hide the truth.

    And does this go against what the internet is supposed to be about, information and free acces to all?

    Time will tell.

    ( if Google is allowed to publish it ;)

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 6.

    Hey wait....

    didn't last week google say this was impossible to do?

    hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    Interesting double-edged sword here...
    I can stop the Big Brother state from holding information about me BUT they can also stop me knowing everything about them...

    Two sides to censorship - liberty or transparency?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 4.

    What is this about?

    I've forgotten.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 3.

    OOPS classic misspelling 'from' or is that F-O-R-M the BBC. !!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2.

    In the same way its fair to blame McDonalds for obesity (yet never mention Burger King, KFC etc... ) I do wonder why its always google gets the grief. Presumably Google remove your data but Yahoo, Bing etc don't?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1.

    Hard to say what will come of this.

    Some dark truths about people's pasts will disappear - will people be more at risk - eg doing business, or dating?

    Or is it a human right for us to be able to choose what others know about us, and therefore in our favour - eg job seeking?

 

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