A European Union court recently ruled that Google must respect the EU’s “right to be forgotten” and remove links to web pages that individuals find embarrassing.
Now, the Guardian reports, Google may soon add a note to its edited search results to indicate when something is missing.
Google already does this with pages from which it’s removed search results in response to DMCA takedown requests, usually as a result of alleged copyright violations. For instance, the Guardian points out, when you search for “Adele MP3,” the bottom of the page mentions specific takedown requests. Each note includes a link to the request, published on ChillingEffects.org, a web site that publishes such requests as a public service.
Of course, a determined pirate might use the list of URLs in the takedown request to obtain the desired MP3s even when Google refuses to provide a direct link in its search results pages.
If Google follows the same pattern with “right to be forgotten” takedown notices, it might be possible to find contested pages that way, too.
We’ve asked Google for confirmation or clarification, and we’ll update this post if and when we hear back.
The new EU rules are already providing cover for people with shady pasts or unfavorable reputations. The BBC reported last month that a pedophile, an ex-politician, and a doctor with unpopular online reviews were demanding that Google remove links to undesirable information, within days of the EU court decision.
Google has received 41,000 such requests since the court’s decision on May 13, the Guardian reports. According to Google, 12 percent of removal requests are related to child pornography, 20 percent related to violent crime, and 31 percent pertain to fraud or scams.
The Spanish court’s decision was well-intentioned, as we wrote last month: In the Internet age, people should have a right to start fresh without the unforgiving memory of search engines.
But, as Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Parker Higgins noted, the right to be forgotten doesn’t just affect the individual. “Let’s be clear: Any ‘right to be forgotten’ is also, at least in part, a ‘right to make others forget,’” he tweeted.