In order to comply with the European Court of Justice’s ruling last month that individuals have a right to request search engines remove results that are ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed,’ Google (who is responsible for over 90 percent of European web searches), has launched a web form that those wanting search result removed can fill in.
The form is a fairly simple affair, asking the complainant’s name (and name and relationship to the person they represent, if not themselves), email address, and the URL’s they wish removed, together with an explanation of why they want the links deleted. Complainants are also required to provide proof of identity (or the identity of the person they represent, plus authorisation to make the request).
The ECJ court order makes Google responsible for processing and these requests, and deciding on how to deal with each one,
‘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 When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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.’
‘The court’s ruling requires Google to make difficult judgements about an individual’s right to be forgotten and the public’s right to know,’ said a Google spokesman. This puts it in at tricky position, as if it fails to meet the Court’s broad criteria for takedowns, the company can be fined.
When the form went live on Friday, Google was deluged with requests, receiving 12,000 requests on the first day, sometimes averaging 20 per minute, which in addition to the ethical decisions it is required to make, provides the search engine with severe logistical problems.
Digital rights campaigners have expressed concern over placing such a double-burden on companies, and Raegan MacDonald, European policy manager at digital rights organization Access told Reuters that,
‘Companies should not be tasked with balancing fundamental rights or making decisions on the appropriateness, lawfulness, or relevance of information they did not publish.’