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Links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased on request, it said.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"When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information," Google says on the form which applicants must fill in.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 79.

    I think people don't realise that google is a search engine. It directs you to websites where this information is on. If someone wants to find something out about you, then they will. Google isn't the only search engine around funnily enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    How exactly can a search engine distinguish between two individuals with the same name? There seems to be too little thought into what should actually happen. On the other hand I could fill in the form; my name? Nick Clegg

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    What might be considered "irrelevant and outdated data" today might not be tomorrow.

    Proceed with caution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Laws should be there to protect the law abiding majority. This ruling protects the criminal minority, celebrities, and those seeking public office. Google is not the right organisation to act as judge and jury on such cases anyway, which is effectively what this ruling has made them. If people have that much of a problem with information online they should sue the webmaster for libel, not google

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    This is not really about Google, it is about the ECJ making a decision protecting an individual's right to have fraud or insolvency kept secret. It is a terrible judgement by the ECJ, enabling those with a shady past to hide their wrongdoings. I support privacy and don't belong to Facebook, but in this case, the so-called privacy is about matters which should really be in the public domain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Good news, I'm not a huge fan of putting personal information out on the internet .. but sometimes others will put information about me up there. My local council has uploaded my information regarding an planning objection and a charity has uploaded my information about a race I completed.. both from over 7 years ago and both retrievable via google.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    "He also said the regulation would give cheer to repressive regimes."
    I see the Conservative Party has already rewritten history by wiping their own speeches off their own website, so Google won;t be finding them.
    So we'll never know how safe the NHS is in their hands, how enjoyable the 'saving culture' is, how shocked GO was by the 10% tax the fabulously wealthy actually pay, etc etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @47 jack daniels esq "The entire world has become too PC - welcome to nanny-state 101"

    Posting a comment without mentioning Lewis Hamilton! I am inpressed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    5 Minutes ago
    We have a Rehabilitation of Offenders act in this country. It means that convictions become spent after the necessary elapse of time.
    ** Rubbish, convictions are still held on record, just limited access and use thereof. If you work in particular areas you have to declare even if over 10 years. More to the point everyone has a clean slate until they get caught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Wonder if they've received an enquiry yet from a Mr. T Blair?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Data protection has its roots in Article 8 ECHR and the respect for private and family life; freedom of expression has its roots in Article 10. These two Articles are always in contention and resolution depends on the facts of the case. All the ECJ has said is that when personal data are published on any website and a search engine is used to locate such personal data, this balance is engaged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.


  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    #Hashtag Good News!
    This may not be perfect but it's a good start and hopefully we will see this extended to other search engines in the future. I don't say this very often but here goes: Well done Goggle!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Bush and Blair already did this!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    All of the focus on Google is totally misplaced, and typical misdirection. This does nothing about removing the potentially 'forgetable' data - only one, of very many, pointers to it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Since when is it a human right to be forgotten? I think it's likely that this bill will only protect the people whose words and actions should be remembered. It is threatening accountability and free speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    If a pedophile is one the sex offenders register for life, then how can articles about his conviction be considered irrelevant?

    I believe another was where a politician wanted articles about his misconduct removed, again how is that irrelevant. This culture cares far too much about the rights of those are happy to ignore the rights of others themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    For once, a sensible suggestion from Europe.

    At my recent wedding, my best man was able to obtain a clip of a TV quiz I participated in, twenty years ago - much to my embarrassment!

    While I am not really fussed about such clips, who knows what else is on there and, therefore, I do believe that we should have the right of veto over such references.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The ciber-world never 'forgets' data. On some server somewhere, burnt onto some old dvd or cd, lurking on an abandoned memory stick or flash drive, in the archives of GCHQ or NSA, that data will exist.

    If it exists, someone will find it if they really want to.

    The moral is:-

    If you don't want data found - don't put it there in the first place.


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