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Microsoft launches a new form to help Europeans become forgotten

The new Bing request for forgetfulness

Above: The new Bing request for forgetfulness

Image Credit: Bing/Microsoft

Microsoft is now matching Google in yet another area.

This time, like its arch-rival, Microsoft is helping people become forgotten.

Following reports that it was intending to do so, the tech giant from Redmond has now created an online request form “to block Bing search results in Europe.” Bing has less than three percent of the search market in Europe, while Google has between 90 and 96 percent in the various countries.

The generalized form, which replaces a previous individual form for each request, follows the decision in May by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. That ruling, commonly referred to as the “right to be forgotten,” said that search engines need to offer an option for any European to request that a link to specific information be blocked in the search results for his or her name.

Microsoft’s form allows the submitter to specify reasons for why the information should be blocked. Reasons include:

• Inaccurate or false
• Incomplete or inadequate
• Out-of-date or no longer relevant
• Excessive or otherwise inappropriate

The decision resulted from a case in 2009, when Spanish lawyer Mario Costeja objected to Google searches that led to outdated bankruptcy notices about him.

The court said links relating to any requesting user need to be erased if they are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant,” unless there are reasons against such a move.

The information is not actually removed; only that link for a given user’s name, and only for European-oriented searches. Additionally, the information may still be searched and found through other search terms.

So, essentially, it’s not a “right to be forgotten” but a “right to avoid being searched.”

The court said that, generally, the right to privacy trumps the right to information. On the other hand, it also said such trumping depends on whether the information’s “sensitivity for the data subject’s private life” is greater than “the interest of the public in having that information.” A top European Union official, for instance, has said that “the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history.”

Or, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Parker Higgins has said: “Let’s be clear: Any ‘right to be forgotten’ is also, at least in part, a ‘right to make others forget.’”

If your head is spinning about this take on forgetting, there’s more.

In fulfilling one of its 70,000+ right-to-be-forgotten requests from individuals, Google recently removed links to a BBC news blog posting about the downfall of former Merrill Lynch chief executive Stan O’Neal.

You can still find the post when you search for Stan O’Neal, but the search giant had to remove links from searches on the name of someone who had posted a comment on the story and who wanted to be forgotten.

More information:

Microsoft Corporation is a public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through ... read more »

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