Google has opened a service for European users to request deletion of their data from search engines if they consider their content irrelevant or outdated, a move that followed the ruling of the European court calling for the "right to be forgotten."
“Certain users can ask search engines to remove results for queries that include their name where those results are inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed,” says the form on a Web page that Google opened late on Thursday for European users.
Google says that when evaluating users’ request, the company checks “whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information.” The later includes information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.
“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,” says the form on the website.
To remove their name, the user also needs to “provide the URL for each link appearing in a Google search for his name” and explain why this data is irrelevant or outdated. An individual must also submit a digital copy of an ID to verify that impersonators aren’t using the form.
Meanwhile, the internet giant didn’t say when exactly it would remove links that meet the criteria for being taken down, adding only that it is "working to finalize the implementation of removal requests … as soon as possible.”
The decision to allow users to have their data be erased follows the May-13 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which said they have the right to make Google delete information about them from their search results.
According to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, there were “many open questions” after the ruling which went too far in favor of privacy at the cost of the right to know.
“A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know. From Google’s perspective that’s a balance,” said Schmidt. “Google believes, having looked at the decision which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.”
Google is currently launching a special advisory committee of senior Google executives and independent experts to establish some guidelines around the right to be forgotten.
Among the members of the group will be Schmidt and David Drummond, the company's chief legal officer as well as Jimmy Wales, co-founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Luciano Floridi, Oxford Internet Institute ethics professor and Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
"I'm delighted to join the international advisory committee established by Google to evaluate the ethical and legal challenges posed by the internet," Floridi said in a written statement to AFP. "It is an exciting initiative which will probably require some hard and rather philosophical thinking."
After the ruling, googling the same person in Europe and in other non –European other countries will differ as the internet giant will only delete the data of the users from 32 European countries (28 countries in the EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
The new Google service indicates Europe’s raising concern about the censorship affecting everything from elections to the safety of children. Some critics say that the information about pedophiles’ convictions may also be deleted.
According to Larry Page, the Google chief executive officer, the “right to be forgotten” ruling against Google in Europe may damage the next generation of internet start-ups and strengthen the hand of repressive governments, which want to limit online communications.
“…As a whole, as we regulate the internet, I think we’re not going to see the kind of innovation we’ve seen,” he added in an interview to Financial Times.
However, advocates of the court decision say that the ruling will help people to delete data about youthful indiscretions, financial mistakes and arrests that never resulted in convictions.