Business

Google starts 'forgetting' search results in Europe

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Some folks in Europe have successfully scrubbed their names from Google’s ubiquitous search engine.

Google has begun to remove certain search results to comply with Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law, reports the Wall Street Journal. Established in May after a landmark ruling by the European Union Court of Justice, the law places an onus on Google to remove outdated or “irrelevant” results from its search engine.

Privacy advocates celebrated the law as a victory for personal data protection; free speech advocates lambasted the law as censorship.

Either way, Google last night updated its technical infrastructure and has started to process requests submitted by European citizens, a Google spokesperson told WSJ.

“This week we’re starting to take action on the removals requests that we’ve received,” a Google spokesman said. “This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually, and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue.”

Google set up an online form last month where Europeans can submit right-to-be-forgotten requests. Just days after establishing the form, Google said it received more than 41,000 removal requests. Google weighs people’s privacy against public interest when considering whether to remove search results, the company said at the time.

Google declined to tell VentureBeat the number of requests it has processed so far. “We’ll continue to work with data protection authorities and others as we implement this ruling,” a Google spokesperson told us, pointing us toward this FAQ document for more information on how the process works.

Google wanted to indicate when it had removed certain search results, similar to how it highlights axed links to pirated content. But European regulators pushed back, saying that such information would still undermine individuals’ privacy. Google has apparently complied with regulators’ desires, adding a blanket statement to searches for names on its European search sites: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.”


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