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Google begins implementation of the ‘right to be forgotten’ on its search engine

Google has launched a web-form allowing EU citizens to request that their details be removed from search results. This is pursuant to the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling by the European Court of Justice on 13th May 2014.

The ECJ has decided that search engines are classified as ‘data controllers’ under EU data protection law. This means that they have to comply with the requirement to remove data that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.

Google’s attempts to implement a judgement many considered unenforceable will attract considerable interest.

A difficult task for search engines

The web form allows users to submit links containing information about them that is “irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate”. They must provide a digital copy of official identification like a passport or drivers’ license.

If you want to see this form, the web-form is on this page.

It appears that Google has not started processing requests for personal information removal. They state, “We are working to finalise our implementation of removal requests under European data protection law as soon as possible”.

Search engines face a difficult task in applying broadly-worded EU principles on data removal to the huge mass of internet content. Google has convened a panel of experts to discuss the issue including Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, and Frank La Rue, UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.

A controversial ruling

The ECJ ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling has divided opinion and aroused passion on both sides.

It is hard not to feel that action needed to be taken on behalf of people whose lives are ruined by false information and online accusations. An example of this is the Irishman Eoin McKeogh, who was harassed by internet users after being wrongly identified as a taxi fare dodger.

However, many consider that giving people the right to have information about them removed from the net is an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression. The ECJ judgement does state that the public interest should be considered when deciding whether or not to remove information, but some would see this as censorship.

The ECJ ruling was widely criticised for applying to search engines rather than individuals or organisations actually publishing the data. It is likely that the ECJ felt that this would be the only effective restriction as media companies like news organisations benefit from exceptions to EU data protection law.

But should Google and other search engines be held responsible for the information they are passing on? Should people be allowed to choose data they want hidden?

The massive evolution in communications caused by the internet has brought about a clash between the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The future development of this area of law will have a huge impact on our society.

Original story:

The Guardian

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