Technology

Google plans debates on 'right to be forgotten'

Google sweets
Image caption Google is appealing for help on how to handle requests to remove data from its search index

Google is holding seven public meetings across Europe to debate issues raised by the "right to be forgotten" ruling.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice lets people ask Google to remove some types of information about them from its search index.

Google opposes the ruling, which has led more than 90,000 people to apply for data about them to be scrubbed.

One privacy expert was sceptical about the meetings, saying they had more to do with PR than open discussion.

Data decisions

The first meeting takes place in Madrid on 9 September, with the other six due to be held in other European capitals before 4 November.

The meetings will be chaired and run by an advisory council Google set up in the wake of the ruling. The council includes Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales, former privacy officials and ex-judges.

Google is seeking input from experts to speak at the meetings, which it said were being held to discuss how "one person's right to be forgotten should be balanced with the public's right to information". The ruling only affects searches done in Europe.

It said the obligation to remove some information was a "new and difficult challenge" and it wanted help to guide its decisions about when to remove links to information and when to refuse.

Up to mid-July Google said it had received about 90,000 applications to remove data applicants considered to be "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant". The requests have involved criminal trials, embarrassing photographs, bullying and news articles that portray some people in a poor light. The search giant is believed to have acted on about half of these applications. Applicants can appeal if their request is refused.

The European Commission welcomed the meetings, spokesman Michele Cercone told Bloomberg, adding that exactly how the ruling should be enforced was the responsibility of national data protection regulators.

Google's meetings start just before a 15 September gathering at which European data protection regulators will hash out guidelines on the "right to be forgotten" for all search engines to ensure all requests to remove are treated consistently.

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of CNIL - France's data protection body - said the debates were more about getting good PR for Google.

"They want to be seen as being open and virtuous, but they handpicked the members of the council, will control who is in the audience, and what comes out of the meetings," she told Reuters.

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