In compliance with a Court of Justice of the European Union ruling, Google has taken steps toward a program that will allow Europeans to request their name be removed from certain searches.
The ruling under the European Data Protection Law provides Europeans with the “right to be forgotten.” In other words, people can have their names removed from queries, Google said, if the results are “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
Google, and other top technology companies, have been less than pleased with the May 13 ruling which they believe will foster a measure of censorship of the Internet.
Google announced yesterday that it had set up a website where people can make a removal request. Europeans must provide their name and contact information, along with links associated with the name they want removed. There is also a field on the form for an explanation of why the removal is being requested.
Google said it will verify identities in order to stave off fraudulent removal requests, or requests trying to harm competitors. Each submission requires a copy of a valid driver’s license, national ID card or photo identification.
Google will have a hand in evaluating each request individually, including assessing whether it is in the public interest or safety to remove personal information from search results, for example, whether it’s in the public interest to remove criminal conviction information.
“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,” a Google spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.
Google chief executive Larry Page told the Financial Times that the ruling could be harmful to online freedom and innovation. In particular, Page said the ruling sets a precedent for oppressive regimes seeking to further clamp down on censoring what citizens see online.
“It will be used by other governments that aren’t as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things,” Page said. “Other people are going to pile on, probably . . . for reasons most Europeans would find negative.”
Google is also expected to announce today the formation of a committee of privacy experts and executives that will help it comply with European privacy mandates. The committee will include Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Google’s top lawyer David Drummond and Wikipedia leader Jimmy Wales.
“I wish we’d been more involved in a real debate . . . in Europe,” Page said. “That’s one of the things we’ve taken from this, that we’re starting the process of really going and talking to people.”