Google unenthusiastically launches 'right to be forgotten' request form

Filed Under: Featured, Google, Privacy

Google logo and silhouette of man, courtesy of ShutterstockGoogle has launched a service that allows European Union citizens to request the removal of certain links that include their name and which are deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed."

The move comes after the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled earlier this month on giving people the "right to be forgotten".

Google has provided a webform through which people can make their link removal requests but has given no indication as to how long it will take for a legitimate request to be approved or processed.

Google says it will assess each request on its merits, looking for a balance between an individual's right to privacy and any public interest concerns:

In implementing this decision we will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information.

The company says that it will look at whether search results return outdated information about the person, and weigh that up against the need to continue displaying information related to "financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions or public conduct of government officials."

The webform, described by Google as "an initial effort" which may be altered over time, asks users to select which country's law applies to the request they are making from a drop-down list that includes the current 28 member states of the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Space is provided for the user to submit one or more links which they believe to be objectionable but each must be accompanied by an explanation as to why it is "irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate."

Google, in a bid to thwart imposters and those who would attempt to abuse the system to suppress legal information, or harm business competitors, requires each request to be accompanied by proof of identity. All such requests need to include a digital copy of a valid driving licence, national ID card or other official identification which includes a photo.

Once a user has submitted a removal request they may need to wait for some time before seeing any results, as Google says it's still working on the details with data protection authorities:

We're working to finalise our implementation of removal requests under European data protection law as soon as possible. In the meantime please fill out the form below and we will notify you when we start processing your request.

Google is reported to have received thousands of requests already, with many coming from applicants who wish to see links to past transgressions removed from search results.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Larry Page, Google's CEO, promised cooperation over privacy concerns within Europe but said he wished the company had "been more involved in a real debate" over the topic.

He argued that the ECJ ruling could work in the favour of oppressive governments, saying that:

It will be used by other governments that aren't as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things.

Page also suggested that the "right to be forgotten" ruling could have an adverse effect on new internet start-ups which will now have to contend with the additional complexities posed by the new regulation.

This, he said, could harm innovation in the sector.

Image of silhouette man courtesy of Shutterstock.

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11 Responses to Google unenthusiastically launches 'right to be forgotten' request form

  1. Ambianca · 143 days ago

    The "public's right to know" is a fiction...a perversion of freedom of speech that has been twisted into a rationalization for prying into private citizen's lives. The public has no right to know anything about anyone who has harmed no one else.

    It's a sick cousin of that other paramount of muddled thinking, "the free flow of information". Really? WHOSE information? Does everyone have a "right" to know the thoughts and ideas created by everyone else? That's just nonsense.

    Ideas and information are among the things people value the most. Such things are never free, nor should they be. It is only via the exchange of one value for another that we are able to have a cooperative society. Privacy — which is part of the structure that protects those values — is an integral part of what makes civilization work. Without it, human society would quickly degenerate into anarchy.

  2. Ting Tong Macadangdang · 143 days ago

    Wish this was an international feature.

  3. RF · 143 days ago

    This is a good step. I hope this also happens here in the U.S. soon.

  4. "Google has launched a service that allows European Union citizens to request the removal of certain links that include their name and which are deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed."

    Why should it have to meet any of those random and arbitrary categories ... why can't someone just say "remove the information about me"... even if millions of people choose to do so there will still be plenty of information for Google to sell from the people who don't care...

  5. John · 143 days ago

    wrap2tyt -

    It relates to EU data protection law which includes requirements for accuracy, keeping info no longer than relevant, using info only for purpose stated etc.

    Court just enforced the same rules every other european business had to work with on google.

    Difference of course is sheer scale of google and the need for a human to make these decisions - this link still relevant, this one not. Obviously google likes a nice lean business with everything done by a computer or the users themselves. Google will need to apply people and dollars to this one. I think thats the reason for all the moaning, not our freedom.

  6. Freida Gray · 142 days ago

    Wouldn't irrelevant information count as misinformation?Why would the public have the "right" to misinformation ?
    What "bad things" could oppressive governments do if they couldn't prove the information false or irrelevant?
    What new regulations would startups have to follow over what established sites have to follow that would make it more difficult for them?

  7. thanks · 142 days ago

    It costs money to store and secure personal user information. The problem is a glut of information that isn't secure.. To justify storage it has to be unique with a buyer value.

  8. GK · 139 days ago

    I just wonder why everyone having a bash on Google. Google has actually not the one who's been in any wrong doing in this case. Why not the actual website and its owner is being punished/informed to remove the unwanted data where it is actually stored? Another stupid EU ruling.

  9. RL · 139 days ago

    This should also apply to libel and defamation as there is NO defence against internet libel. Deliberate character assignation has to be addressed. Google, by alloying postings of such material is therefore a party to the libel.

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About the author

Lee Munson is the founder of Security FAQs, a social media manager with BH Consulting and a blogger with a huge passion for information security.