First search results removed as Google acts on ‘Right to be forgotten’ requests


The WSJ is reporting that Google has begun removing search results following a European court decision that individuals have a right to require Google to remove links to information which is “outdated or irrelevant.”

Following the ruling – known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ – Google created a webpage application and announced that each would be evaluated by hand on a case-by-case basis, balancing the right to privacy against legitimate public interest. The company now says that it has begun acting on these requests … 

Google engineers overnight updated the company’s technical infrastructure to start implementing the removals, and Thursday began sending the first emails to individuals informing them that links they had requested were being taken down. Only a small number of the initial wave of requests has been processed.

Google had earlier suggested that it might flag removed links in the same way it does with pirate content – advising users that some links have been removed from their results. Regulators reportedly told Google that this would breach the spirit of the ruling, and the company is now simply posting a blanket disclaimer on all search results that appear to be for an individual advising that “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.”

Note that the right to be forgotten applies only to private individuals, not people in public life, and only to citizens of European Union countries. The right does not apply to U.S. citizens, where first amendment rights make it unlikely that a similar ruling could be made.

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