Slammed with ‘right to be forgotten’ request in Europe, Google digs in

Slammed with ‘right to be forgotten’ request in Europe, Google digs in

The search giant is assembling an advisory panel and dedicating staff to handle thousands of search removal requests flooding it in the wake of May's European Union court ruling.

Google has dealt with privacy concerns in the U.S. and is on thin ice in China, but it’s the Court of Justice of the European Union that has the tech giant on its toes. The Mountain View, Calif.-headquartered company is dedicating staff and organizing a panel of advisors to deal with the repercussions from the so-called ‘right-to-be-forgotten’ ruling handed down in May by the high court in Europe.

A Spaniard successfully argued before the EU court that negative information about him from the 1990s should be removed from Google’s search results in Europe (they would still show up on Google searches outside of Europe and not be deemed illegal).

Daily Digest News reported in May that to comply with the decision, Google was working on an automated search removal kit to accept requests.

Two months later, Google has received 70,000 search result removal requests related to more than 250,000 webpages, according to an essay penned by David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president and chief legal officer. In the essay, published in major newspapers in in Spain, Germany, France and England, as well as on Google’s corporate website, Drummond describes the process and the extent to which Google is having to go to comply with a court order that it believes curtails freedom of speech.

According to Drummond, Google in the past had a “very short list” of information that it removed from its search results and it included content that could be illegal, such as defamation, pirated work, malware and personal financial information, child pornography and items that run afoul of local law.

The EU court is compelling Google to remove search results that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive,” which Drummond, speaking as Google’s in-house lawyer, is too vague, subjective and infringes on the right to know.

Drummond notes that the EU court’s decision stipulates Google doesn’t qualify for a “journalistic exception” – which means that, for example, “The Guardian could have an article on its website about an individual that’s perfectly legal, but we (Google) might not legally be able to show links to it in our results when you search for that person’s name. It’s a bit like saying the book can stay in the library, it just cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue.”

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