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Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’

A new legislation affecting privacy, referred to as ‘right to be forgotten’, has now been introduced meaning that all European residents have the right to be forgotten online. This means that search engines like Google will have to remove links that contain inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive information. The new legislation has been agreed on during the European Court of Justice’s court case on 13th of May 2014.

Right to be forgotten

The issue of privacy was first raised in 2010 after Mario Costeja Gonzalez, a Spanish national, requested a Spanish Newspaper respect his privacy and freedom by removing historic links about debt problems he had previously experienced. His argument was that search engines hold information that is outdated and no longer relevant, which he believed violated his data protection rights.

Although the new legislation is now in place, the court agreed that the right to be forgotten will need to be balanced when it comes to other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech within the press.

How do I request a removal of personal information?

European users now have certain tools in place that have been developed for their use to request a removal of their personal information on Google.

In order to use the above tool you will need to state the following;

  • Country of residence
  • Your name
  • Contact email address and
  • State the links that you want removing (by providing URLs).

Once the request for removal is actioned, you will need to verify your identity by providing a copy of an appropriate document and sign the request before submitting it.

Can I perform a request on behalf of someone else?

You can request a removal of personal information for someone else, such as your children, parents and partners.  You will however need a form of their identification to hand to prove their identity. Once submitted you will receive a confirmation email from Google and the request will be added to the queue.

Are there any alternative tools available?

At the same time Forget.me has introduced another tool that can also be used for the same purpose. Some might find this tool easier and quicker to use. This site lets the site visitors go through a step-by-step procedure in order to fill out a request with Google without having any legal knowledge.

 

In order to use this, you will need to register by clicking on the “Get Started” button on the home page. Choose your country and type in your name. A search of the name selected will then be performed. This will allow you to remove any links that you find offensive. Forget.me will then inform Google to remove the requested links and will then inform you once it is completed.

Google vs Forget.me

Although the Google tool is not difficult to use, Forget.me makes the process easier and quicker. The Forget.me tool might work better with people who are not familiar with legal language. When performing the link removal, the visitors get asked why they are performing this. Forget.me instead has categories for Europeans to choose from, which will then guide them towards the most appropriate reason.

Google has already received thousands of requests, with 12,000 applications made on the first day, however, it is estimated that not all will be approved due to the fact that some will have not met the criteria set, such as providing a valid form of ID. In case of rejection people will be able to appeal to their country’s data protection agency.

Will this affect other search engines?

The new rule will not only affect Google but also other search engines within Europe, such as Yahoo and Bing. Yahoo has already started developing their own solution to this, whilst Bing has not taken any action at time of publication. Since the right to be forgotten is a legal requirement all search engines will need to comply with the new regulations.

When will removal come into place?

Google started implementing the removal of data from search results under the new rule on Thursday the 26th of June 2014. Although they have hired a dedicated removal team to evaluate each request, only a small proportion of the initial requests have been processed.

As of the date of publication, users searching for a name using one of the Google’s European domains will see a warning message displayed (as per picture below). This warning appears when most name searches are performed and not just the ones affected by the removal. This message is not displayed on the Google.com search results as the new rule only applies in Europe.

Currently the ‘right to be forgotten’ only applies to European residents, unfortunately it does not apply to anyone living outside Europe. However, other countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore have also requested that Google develops a similar system for their citizens. So watch this space for the latest developments on the ‘right to be forgotten’ across the world or subscribe to our blog. 

Clive Wragg

Clive Wragg

Commercial Director at ICU
Clive Wragg

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