Google Working Out Specifics of EU's 'Right to Forget' Law

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-07-14 Print this article Print
Google legal

These are among the challenges of complying with the new law, wrote Drummond. "It's for these reasons that we disagree with the ruling. That said, we obviously respect the court's authority and are doing our very best to comply quickly and responsibly. It's a huge task as we've had over 70,000 take-down requests covering 250,000 Web pages since May. So we now have a team of people individually reviewing each application, in most cases with limited information and almost no context."

Some of the problems that have cropped up so far in the information removal requests have included "former politicians wanting posts removed that criticize their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; [and] comments that people have written themselves (and now regret)," he wrote. "In each case, someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue it should be out in the open."

To look at the incoming removal requests, Google has to determine what's in the public interest while also taking other factors into account, he wrote. "These include whether: the information relates to a politician, celebrity, or other public figure; if the material comes from a reputable news source, and how recent it is; whether it involves political speech; questions of professional conduct that might be relevant to consumers; the involvement of criminal convictions that are not yet 'spent'; and if the information is being published by a government. But these will always be difficult and debatable judgments."

Google's compliance situation, he wrote, is still a work in progress after only two months. "It's why we incorrectly removed links to some articles last week (they have since been reinstated). But the good news is that the ongoing, active debate that's happening will inform the development of our principles, policies and practices—in particular about how to balance one person's right to privacy with another's right to know."

To help the process, Google has just implemented an advisory council of experts, according to Drummond, including people from the worlds of academia, the media, data protection, civil society and the tech sector, who are serving as independent advisors to Google to improve the removal process.

"The council will be asking for evidence and recommendations from different groups, and will hold public meetings this autumn across Europe to examine these issues more deeply," he wrote. "Its public report will include recommendations for particularly difficult removal requests (like criminal convictions); thoughts on the implications of the court's decision for European Internet users, news publishers, search engines and others; and procedural steps that could improve accountability and transparency for Websites and citizens."

Google is continuing to work on improving the process because the company is "committed to complying with the court's decision," wrote Drummond. "Indeed it's hard not to empathize with some of the requests we've seen—from the man who asked that we not show a news article saying he had been questioned in connection with a crime (he's able to demonstrate that he was never charged) to the mother who requested that we remove news articles [that included] her daughter's name as she had been the victim of abuse. It's a complex issue, with no easy answers. So a robust debate is both welcome and necessary, as, on this issue at least, no search engine has an instant or perfect answer."


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