Google hauled in by Europe over ‘right to be forgotten’ reaction

Google

Google is being hauled in front of European data protection regulators on Thursday to explain its handling of the “right to be forgotten” ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ ruling meant that EU citizens had the right to request that information online that is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive be removed from search listings and other non-media websites.

Google's interpretation has been a high publicity approach, encouraging a wide debate about the complexity of the ruling and introducing a removal request form to its website.

The company is judging each case independently, and then removing some requested links from search results that specifically mention the relevant name and subject.

'They're going to have to do some tidying up'

"Google is a massive commercial organisation making millions and millions out of processing people's personal information. They're going to have to do some tidying up,” the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told Radio 5 live Thursday morning.

Google will join Microsoft and Yahoo in a meeting in Brussels today to discuss the fallout from the ruling and the actions taken to respond to the ruling. The Guardian understands that Google has seen regulators privately and publicly applying pressure, given their dissatisfaction over its methods, including its notification of websites on removal of their links from the search index.

Google received more 12,000 requests for link removals within 24 hours of its European web form to handle requests being online. That number rose sharply to 70,000 removal requests in less than two months. Google began removing links, including those to Guardian articles, in June.

'All this talk about rewriting history'

Many have seen the removals as censorship, with websites set up to expose those links that have been removed under the ruling. The alerts over link removals have also caused news organisations to highlight the removals meaning that those seeking to be “forgotten” end up back in the public eye.

"All this talk about rewriting history and airbrushing embarrassing bits from your past - this is nonsense, that's not going to happen," Graham said discounting fears that removal of links from search impacted the wealth of public knowledge.

The meeting of regulators and search companies, known as the Article 29 Working Party, could place further restrictions and give strict guidance on how Google and other search engines respond to removal requests.

Google publicly expressed dismay on the ECJ’s ruling. Former chief executive Eric Schmidt said in May that “Google believes, having looked at the decision which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.”

Larry Page, Google chief executive, also expressed concern that the ruling will be “used by other governments that aren’t as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things.”

Google’s link removals only affect its website domains within Europe, with the links still visible on sites like google.com outside the Union.

A manifesto for the future of the 'right to be forgotten' debatePowered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 24th July 2014 11.18 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010