Critics Decry Google's Deletion of Links to Comply With EU Courts

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-07-05 Print this article Print

The (London) Daily Mail reported July 2 that it was notified that links to several of its stories have also been removed in Google search under the new rules. They include articles about Scottish soccer referee Dougie McDonald "who was found to have lied about his reasons for granting a penalty in a Celtic v. Dundee United match; a story about Tesco workers posting stories on social media attacking their workers; a story about a couple caught having sex on a Virgin train; and a story about a Muslim man who accused Cathay Pacific, the airline, of refusing to employ him because of his name," the paper reported.

The Daily Mail said it has not removed the stories from its site.

Martin Clarke, the publisher of the MailOnline Website, said in the story, "These examples show what a nonsense the right to be forgotten is. It is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don't like. MailOnline intends to regularly publish lists of articles deleted from Google's European search results so people can keep track of what has been deleted. There is no suggestion any of these articles are inaccurate."

Google said earlier that the new EU rules require Google to make difficult judgments about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right to know. The company previously said it is forming an expert advisory committee to look at these issues, while also working together with data protection authorities.

The online data removal request form states that the "Court of Justice of the European Union found that certain users can ask search engines to remove results for queries that include their name where those results are (emphasis added by Google) 'inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.'" Google said it 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. Google said it will look at whether the results include outdated information about individuals, as well as "whether there's a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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."

Users making information-removal requests must provide the URL for each link appearing in a Google search for their name that they request to be removed, as well as an explanation about why the linked page is about them and how it is irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate. Users must provide additional details and sign and attest to the authenticity of their request.

The EU's May decision was a stunning reversal of an earlier opinion by an adviser to the Court of Justice of the European Union in June 2013 that said Google should not have to delete information from its search results when old information is pulled up that is damaging to individuals.

In the 2013 case, a man in Spain had argued that Google searches of his name had uncovered a then-15-year-old announcement in a newspaper describing how a property he owned was up for auction because of nonpayment of Social Security, the court stated. The man wanted Google to remove the old information, which was damaging his reputation, according to the earlier case. The Spanish court originally accepted the man's argument and ordered Google to remove the information from its search results. Google then appealed that decision and received the favorable opinion from the Court of Justice adviser, who ruled that the original Spanish court decision was wrong.


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