Details are emerging on that meeting yesterday in Brussels between the big three search engines and European privacy regulators.
Regulators called the meeting to find out about how the search companies are implementing the “right to be forgotten” ruling and to get input for future guidelines.
Google told the regulators that it has fulfilled slightly more than 50 percent of the requests it has received to remove links, according to a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, which cited “a person familiar with the matter.” This represents about 100,000 now-gone links.
Microsoft and Yahoo were also in that meeting, but no details have emerged on their implementations.
Google also reportedly said that it rejected a bit over 30 percent of the requests – no word on why or the standards used – and that it has asked for more information for 15 percent of requests. Google has received requests from about 91,000 individuals since late May, concerning about 328,000 links.
Over Two Dozen Questions
According to a press release from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party on the Protection of Individuals, the data protection authorities asked over two dozen questions, including:
–“Do you delist search results based only on the name of the data subject or also in combination of the name with another search term (i.e. Costeja and La Vanguardia)?”
–“Do you notify website publishers of delisting? In that case, which legal basis do you have to notify website publishers?”
A Yahoo spokesperson has confirmed that Yahoo was involved in the Brussels meeting but declined to provide other details. Google declined to comment beyond a recent blogpost. A Microsoft spokesperson, while saying the company had no comment on the meeting, issued this statement to us:
“On July 15 we launched an online form for residents of the European Economic Area and Switzerland to request blocks of specific privacy-related search results on Bing in light of the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice. We continue to work out the details of the process we’ll use to evaluate the requests.”
As the dominant search engine in Europe, Google’s implementation appears to have gotten the main attention of the privacy regulators and is apparently being watched by Microsoft, Yahoo, and others.
European officials have been wary of Google’s practice of notifying websites when links to their content are removed, since this practice has drawn more attention to the removal and resulted in stories about whether the “right to be forgotten” is jeopardizing the public’s right to know and free speech.
Additionally, the regulators asked about another reported issue: Google has been removing results only from its search engines with European domains, such as google.co.uk, and not from outside ones, like google.com.
The search engines’ implementation of the so-called “right to be forgotten” is the result of a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
In response to a 2009 complaint by a Spanish lawyer that Google searches led to outdated bankruptcy notices about him, the court ruled in May that any requesting user could have links removed that result from a search on his or her name if the linked content was inadequate or irrelevant/no longer relevant. The content still remains; only the link resulting from that search is removed.