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​12,000 entries: Google flooded with Europeans’ ‘right to forget’ requests

Published time: June 01, 2014 12:12
Reuters / Francois Lenoir

Reuters / Francois Lenoir

In one day after offering a form for requests to remove links to harmful information about individuals, Google has received 12,000 entries. The search giant will have to process the inflow individually.

The number of requests was given out by a company spokesman in Germany on Saturday, a day after Google revealed its new instrument for people seeking to exercise their new ‘right to be forgotten.’

The form was set up in compliance with a ruling by EU’s highest court, which said individuals can demand that links to material to irrelevant or outdated information about them be removed from search query results.

Germany leads in the number of request, according to Google data, with four out of ten submissions coming from there. Spaniards and Britons are also flocking in numbers to have links to information on them removed.

Coinciding with the launch, Google’s chief executive officer Larry Page warned that the court’s decision may empower dictators.

“It will be used by other governments that aren’t as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things. Other people are going to pile on, probably… for reasons most Europeans would find negative,” the executive told the Financial Times.

He also claimed that the move would stifle innovation, because small startup companies would not have the resources Google has to address such regulations.

Google’s search results would be changed only according to requests in the EU. But human employees will review all the thousands of requests, rather than software used by the giant, to deal with millions of request to remove links to copyrighted material.

The company said it would in each case weigh the demand for privacy with the public’s right to know, especially when the individual in question is some sort of a public figure.

“When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials,” comments explaining the form say.

Europeans started sending Google requests to redact links even before the company set up the complaint form, and have sent thousands of them. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of those was connected to criminal records or some other past sins.

According to media reports, among the first requests submitted were those of a man convicted for possession of child pornography, an actor, who had an affair with a teenager, a politician, who misbehaved while in office, and a physician disliking negative reviews.

Other large search engines, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing, are also subject to the court’s decision. Yahoo said in a statement it is in the process of developing a solution to comply. Microsoft said it hopes “the courts and data protection authorities will strike the right balance between protecting privacy rights and the freedom of expression.”

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