Google Posts Request Form in EU to Remove Personal Info Online

The move complies with an EU court ruling that Google and other search firms have a process for people to request the removal of objectionable online content.

EU search ruling

Google has made an online form and process available for people in the European Union who want to have information about them removed from searches. The move complies with a recent court order in the EU that search providers such as Google must have such a process to "forget" things about people if they make removal requests.

Google posted the form for EU users on May 30, along with complete instructions on how to make a request.

"To comply with the recent European court ruling, we've made a webform available for Europeans to request the removal of results from our search engine," Google said in a statement emailed to eWEEK. "The court's ruling requires Google to make difficult judgments about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right to know. We're creating an expert advisory committee to take a thorough look at these issues. We'll also be working with data-protection authorities and others as we implement this ruling."

The new online 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 states on the form's site: "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. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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."

Users who want to make a removal request will have to provide their full name, a copy of a valid photo ID and other related information.

"Please note that this form is an initial effort," the form states. "We look forward to working closely with data-protection authorities and others over the coming months as we refine our approach."

Only residents in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are presently eligible to use the form, according to Google.

Users making information-removal requests must provide the URL for each link appearing in a Google search for your 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.

Google did not respond to an eWEEK request for further details about the action, including how many removal requests have been received so far and if the company is seeking ways of continuing to fight the decision, which is not appealable.

Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at City University of New York and the author of the 2011 book, "Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live," told eWEEK that the EU court's decision was "an insane ruling" that is "beyond belief. It has a huge impact on freedom of speech, and that's my primary concern."