Following a ruling by a European court that users have the “right to be forgotten” online, Google has launched a new web page that allows some users seeking a bit of privacy to have certain links removed from the company’s search results. The Mountain View search giant says it has already gotten thousands of takedown requests—and that’s before the form was even public (via Re/code).
The system isn’t automated, and Google says it will need to consider each request on a case-by-case basis to decide whether a certain link should be removed or left intact in the interest of public information. If that sounds a bit inefficient, that might be because it is. An introductory statement on the page calls it “an initial effort” which will undoubtedly be improved on over time:
A recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union found that certain users can ask search engines to remove results for queries that include their name where those results are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
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. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.
If you have a removal request, please fill out the form below. Please note that this form is an initial effort. We look forward to working closely with data protection authorities and others over the coming months as we refine our approach.
There are some limitations on what kinds of information will be removed upon request. The page must be found in the search results for a user’s name, not just something that appears in connection to another search term or someone else’s name. The information contained at the link must be outdated or inaccurate in some way, not just negative. For example, poor business reviews and news reports about criminal cases will remain listed in the interest of serving the public knowledge.
Users will also need to submit a photo ID to avoid fraudulent requests. Removal requests can only be made by citizens of European countries that fall under the new ruling.
Since the new applies to all search engines, other companies will also be required to comply with this ruling—though it seems none have jumped on board quite as quickly as Google. Any company that doesn’t remove offending links could face big fines.
Don’t let the prompt response fool you: Google is not thrilled with the ruling. In fact, Eric Schmidt is forming a committee of web executives to further investigate the issue and potential resolutions that protect users’ privacy without running the risk of infringing on public information.
As noted after the ruling, this decision doesn’t apply to Google results in the United States, or anywhere outside the European Union.