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Links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased on request, it said.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"When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information," Google says on the form which applicants must fill in.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 39.

    Another step on the long slippery road to removing free speech. This is by no means the first step we have seen, and will doubtless not be the last; a terrible ruling.

    We need to wake up to this before it gets out of hand

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Then all people will do when looking for said information is use a different search engine....??!?!?!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    There's always two sides to every story. A friend of mine, a teacher was arrested and suspended. Type in his name and you'll find the headlines teacher arrested on suspicion of ... What you won't find are any stories that tell you 'acquitted of false accusations'. So why shouldn't he have the right to try to remove damaging lies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Say Nowt...your being watched, what you write here may be here forever and as Google seems to be policing Google as to what stays and what goes then it'll probably stay.

    Their Driver less cars, Google Mapping vehicles, Satellite mapping etc worries me that they can track our every move, one day a company that large may rule the world.

    Is it Scary Science fiction coming true? worried!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    And they stopped Pirate Bay! .. How did that work out then? lol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Will we soon be accused of discriminating against murderers/rapists/other criminals by dragging them into a legal process instead of letting them "be forgotten"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    A great deal of what appears on the internet is wrong anyway. It's a Big Brother's dream. Dominated by US corporations (and so, government) it's constantly tweaking itself to represent the establishment view. One retaliation is to flood it with more, deliberately wrong, information so that people eventually stop referring to it as truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    If Google paid Taxes to Europe they probably would of had a larger say in the matter, the point is they don't so it's no skin off Europe's back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Hopefully, in the interests of openness and transparency, Google will also include in their search results the fact that the person applied to have data deleted including the links they wished to delete. After all, this data will now recent and relevant, is it not? Of course the person could apply to have the link to the application to apply deleted, but again include this in search results

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    already been filled out by everyone with a criminal record, and every politician who has done something dodgy or illegal whilst in office, and everyone in a professional capacity who has had a bad review against them

    If we had common sense as a society this would be an excellent law for privacy protection for things which are not in the public interest... we don't have common sense though...

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Is this so all the illegal immigrants forging their way acropss the EU to Britain can conveniently disappear once they get here?

    Thanks EU. Fiddling whilst Rome burns as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    And look at the people who have already made requests to have their details/information removed! It's totally wrong, end of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Google is only one search engine. There are dozens of others which will still have access to the information. Or does that seem a little obvious?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    A classic case of shooting the messenger here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

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

    No need to use hackers! Just another search engine. All google will be doing is removing the sign posts. They have no control over individual web sites.

    More to the point this is in part about poor management by Webmasters controling what can and can't be indexed and cached by search engines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    good - thank you EU - common sense prevails. Why should peopel now about other peoples lives - the word gossip should be replaced with nosey parkers

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The internet never truly forgets.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Quite apart from the fact that it's unfairly targeting a single search provider rather than them all, it's Google's primary service to offer a rapid and thorough search facility. The data doesn't disappear just because Google doesn't present it. All you'll do is find that people will start using Bing. Did Microsoft sponsor this bill? This is suppression of free speech, pure and simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    10.paul bad
    2 Minutes ago
    Get your forms quick before the politicians hear about it.

    They'll be the main ones using it!


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