Facebook tops Google’s list of domains for ‘right to be forgotten’ requests

Masking tape man. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Google’s given us fresh insight into the links it’s been forced to remove from search results in response to Europeans’ court-ordered right to be forgotten.

The company on Monday published its latest Transparency Report, which reveals that the number of requests is soaring.

It’s received 348,085 requests, for which it’s evaluated a total of 1,234,092 URLs.

Google complied with 42% of those requests, meaning that over half a million results have disappeared from the European versions of its search engines.

The company says that Facebook is once again at the top of the list of URLs requested for removal.

Also in the top 10 are URLs on YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, and Google Groups.

For the second year in a row, the second most popular domain in the list of targeted URLs is one you might never have heard of.

It’s called Profile Engine, a “people search” site that creates profiles of individuals by scraping data from social media sites.

Quartz last year called it a “fairly low-budget-looking search engine” (a year later, that hasn’t changed) which was launched in 2007 in New Zealand and is partly owned by the Auckland University of Technology.

People love to hate this crawler, which in 2008 acquired the rights to thumb through user data in Facebook’s back-end.

In fact, when it launched, it billed itself as “the world’s first dedicated search engine for Facebook.”

Facebook allegedly changed its mind about selling off its users and shut off the spigot in 2010, after which Profile Engine sued it.

According to the legal complaint, there were a lot of users sold out over the course of the deal: “over 400 million profiles were aggregated, along with over 15 billion ‘friendship’ connections between people and 3 billion ‘likes’.”

At any rate, that’s Profile Engine, and all those people scrapings are still a force to contend with, as Google’s Transparency Report shows: it says it’s removed 7986 links for Profile Engine’s site.

For comparison’s sake, since it’s started removing links from search results, Google’s taken down 10,220 links from Facebook.

Google once again put some flesh on the skeleton’s bones, sharing 23 examples of requests it’s encountered.

A few of those:

  • Hungary: A high-ranking public official asked Google to remove recent articles discussing a decades-old criminal conviction. It decided not to.
  • France: A priest convicted for possession of child sexual abuse imagery asked Google to remove articles reporting on his sentence and banishment from the church. It did not remove the pages from search results.
  • Latvia: A political activist who was stabbed at a protest asked Google to remove a link to an article about the incident. Google did remove the page from search results for the victim’s name.
  • Italy: A woman requested that Google remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name. Google removed the page from search results for her name.
  • UK: A doctor requested the removal of more than 50 links to newspaper articles about a botched procedure. Three pages that contained personal information about the doctor but did not mention the procedure were removed from search results for his name. The rest of the links to reports on the incident remain in search results.

Image of masking tape man courtesy of Shutterstock.