May 16, 2014
Google Receives First ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Requests
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Just hours after the European Court of Justice ruled that search engines had to remove links to objectionable personal information that was “irrelevant and outdated” from their search results, sources revealed Thursday that Google had already received the first “right to be forgotten” requests.
According to BBC News, one of the requests came from a politician seeking re-election, who asked that an article discussing his behavior in office be stricken from the search results. Another came from a man requesting removal of links to pages detailing his conviction on possession of child abuse image charges, and a third was from a doctor who wanted negative reviews from patients to be deleted.
“The original case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google's search results had infringed his privacy,” explained BBC Technology Reporter Jane Wakefield. “The ruling surprised many because it contradicted the advice of the European Union's advocate general who said last year that search engines were not obliged to honor such requests.”
The individual at the heart of the case, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, discovered a pair of stories from Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia that covered an auction of his real estate in order to repay his social security debt, added Hayley Dixon and Matt Warman of The Telegraph.
The Spanish data protection agency determined that Google and its Spanish subsidiary should make it impossible for the story to be viewed in the future. The Mountain View, California-based company appealed, and the case was referred to the European Court of Justice. Ultimately, the original verdict was upheld, as the court ruled that permitting access to personal details through search engines indefinitely conflicted with EU data protection directives.
“The ruling only compels Google to remove the link to the information, rather than the information itself,” Dixon and Warman said. “Sources at the world's biggest search company say they are yet to figure out how to deal with the expected flood of expected requests and will need to build up an ‘army of removal experts’ in each of the 28 European Union countries, including those where Google does not have operations.”
“Whether those experts merely remove controversial links or actually judge the merits of individual takedown requests are among the many questions Google has yet to figure out, added the source,” the writers noted. They added that Yahoo is “carefully reviewing” the decision, and that Microsoft declined to comment on the issue.
While EU Commissioner Viviane Reding told Wakefield that the ruling was “a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans,” others have sharply criticized the decision. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales called it “astonishing” and free speech activists from The Index on Censorship said that the verdict “should send chills down the spine of everyone… who believes in the crucial importance of free expression and freedom of information.”