Google received more than 2.4m URL removal requests from Europeans

28 Feb 2018

Google search on a laptop. Image: Castleski/Shutterstock

Google has removed almost half of all pages requested to be taken down by users since 2014.

In 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered Google to allow individuals to request the delisting of certain search results relating to their names if the information is “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive in relation to the purposes of the processing”.

Hundreds of thousands of URLs

In the three-and-a-half years since then, Google said there were close to 400,000 requests made by separate entities.

Since 2014, there have been 655,429 requests to delist, with 2,439,892 URLs in total flagged. In the last two years alone, celebrities asked for more than 40,000 URLs to be delisted, while political figures and officials made close to 35,000 requests in the same timeframe. Google removed close to 43pc of all URLs brought to its attention.

The statistics were part of a report issued by the search giant detailing how it has processed these requests since the EU ruling was implemented. 89pc of all requests were sent by private individuals since Google began asking people for more detailed personal information in 2016. The most popular links people wanted removed included news items, directories and social media sites.

The search results outside of Europe are not affected and Google said it uses “geolocation signals to restrict access to the URL from the country of the requester” and delists the link from all of of its EU country search engines.

Case-by-case basis

Each query is examined by Google on a case-by-case basis. “Determining whether content is in the public interest is complex and may mean considering many diverse factors, including – but not limited to – whether the content relates to the requester’s professional life, a past crime, political office, position in public life, or whether the content is self-authored content, consists of government documents or is journalistic in nature.”

Both the requests and number of URLs mentioned in each request have increased over time since the new rules were implemented.

Landmark UK case

A particular case related to the right to be forgotten has made headlines in the UK today (28 February), as a business man took Google to court in London to challenge the company’s decision not to remove details of a criminal conviction of his dating back to the 1990s.

Google said: “We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are clearly in the public interest, and will defend the public’s right to access lawful information.”

The case will be closely monitored by those who may want to have embarrassing or otherwise negative content about them removed from Google search results. The onset of GDPR in 2017 will make it easier for EU citizens to make similar requests of other platforms.

Google search on a laptop. Image: Castleski/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects