July 25, 2014
Google Meets With EU Regulators To Discuss “Right To Be Forgotten” Progress
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Google recently revealed to European data protection authorities that it had already responded to more than half of “right to be forgotten” requests, but that revelation has not completely quelled regulators’ concerns regarding the company’s response to the ruling.
According to Sam Schechner of the Wall Street Journal, the Mountain View, California-based search engine giant told officials during a Thursday meeting in Brussels that it had removed tens of thousands – and perhaps as many as 100,000 – links from European search results in response to users’ requests.
“Google's removal rate is the first clear signal of how broadly the search company is implementing the right-to-be-forgotten ruling, and could help set a broader precedent,” wrote Schechner. “Other firms like Microsoft Corp. have been watching Google closely to see how it interprets the decision. European politicians, who are debating a law that could implement a more stringent version of the right, are watching as well.”
“Google's disclosure could also soothe tensions with privacy regulators, who called Thursday's meeting and have been critical of how the search company has implemented the ruling,” he added. “Some have been demanding that Google end its notifications to websites that have been the subject of right to be forgotten requests, which have in some cases made it possible to identify the person making the request.”
Of the requests, Google reported that the greatest number originated from France, followed by Germany, the UK and Spain, said BBC News technology reporter Dave Lee. Furthermore, in addition to telling regulators that the majority of the applications had been approved, company officials said that they asked for additional information in about 15 percent of the cases and had rejected 30 percent of requests.
The European Court of Justice ruled in May that Google or other similar websites had an obligation to remove links containing sensitive information if asked to do so, and that users who wanted search engines to remove personal data could file a request directly with the operator of the search engine.
Google received its first requests under the new ruling later on that month, and Schechner said the company reported it had been contacted by 91,000 individuals covering a total of 328,000 individual URLs. However, a spokesperson said that not all of the requests had been processed, and that the removal rate was still in its early stages.
The company’s handling of the request has come under scrutiny as of late, explained Reuters reporter Julia Fioretti, since it has thus far only removed results from its European search engines. That means that anyone can access the supposedly hidden information simply by using the US version of the website (google.com) instead of other, regional ones.
Fioretti said that experts claim this limitation “effectively defeats the purpose of the ruling.” Furthermore, Google has come under fire for reporting to some website owners that search results from their domain had been removed, including a recent request resulting in the removal of links to an article from BBC and Guardian news articles.
“EU privacy watchdogs are concerned about the effect the notification process could have on people making the requests, according to a person familiar with the matter,” she wrote. “Privacy advocates and legal experts said the backlash over the newspaper articles showed the difficulty of implementing the privacy ruling given the broad criteria laid down by the court for information that is inadequate or irrelevant.”
Joe Mullin of ArsTechnica noted that EU authorities had also scheduled meetings with representatives of Yahoo and Microsoft. The latter, which operates the Bing search engine, only started taking “right to be forgotten requests” last week using a four-part online request form that asks for more information than Google’s form.
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