Microsoft has revealed that it is expanding the coverage of its “right to be forgotten” filtering mechanism in Europe, and will now use location signals such as IP addresses to delist URLs on all versions of Bing.
The right-to-be-forgotten ruling, or “right to delist” from search engines as it should perhaps more accurately be described, was the result of a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in 2014. It was designed to help individuals “hide” web pages that contain irrelevant, damaging, or out-of-date information about them — this could be a news article, blog post, or any page with a URL.
For the most part, this has meant that those living in an EU country could ask search engine operators to “de-index” pages from European versions of search engines — such as .de (Germany), .fr (France), or .co.uk (U.K.). As the world’s largest search engine, the ruling has more often than not implicated Google, but the legislation does of course cover all search engines — including Microsoft’s Bing, which actually enjoys a reasonable market share in some European markets, including the U.K. where it’s reported to power almost 20 percent of online searches.
A request made by France’s data protection regulator this year demanded that search engines hide pages from all local domains; in the case of Google, that would include google.com. After a long battle, Google finally gave in to an extent — it agreed to restrict access to the delisted URL on all Google Search domains, but only within the country of the person who requested the removal. So, if a web page was hidden based on the request of someone living in France, users in France would not be able to see that URL on any Google Search property (including google.com). But someone searching from another country — even within the E.U. — would be able to see the web page, but only on a non-E.U. version of Google, such as google.com.
France objected that Google didn’t go far enough, fined the company, and now Google is in the process of appealing to France’s highest court.
Bing, and other search engines, have largely remained out of the spotlight due to their lower profile in the search realm, but as noted already that doesn’t mean the ruling doesn’t apply to them, which is why Microsoft has now declared its intentions, and it sounds as though it will be following Google’s approach. A Microsoft statement reads:
If someone in France successfully requests delisting of a URL on Bing, in addition to delisting that URL from all applicable European versions of Bing, Bing will now also delist that URL for all searches of that person’s name — regardless of what version of Bing is being used — if the search originates from a location within France.
France was just used as an example here, but it will of course apply to similar scenarios in all 28 European Union states. And Microsoft confirms that this change will be applied to all valid requests, including those it received prior to this announcement.
It’s not entirely clear why Microsoft has made this move now — Google is still appealing its case in France — but Microsoft does say that its decision “reflects recent developments in the European data protection regulatory environment” and that it’s “in line with the broader industry,” by which it probably means Google.