Google bows to EU, produces a ‘right to be forgotten’ webform for Europeans

30 May 2014

Search giant Google has made a webform available for Europeans allowing them to request the removal of results from its search engine following a landmark ‘right to be forgotten decsion’ by the European Court of Justice.

Last month the court decided that an internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data that appears on web pages published by third parties.

This means search operators like Google if requested have to hide results such as newspaper stories from prominence in the search results.

This creates a dilemma, or balancing act, between truth and censorship; the right to know and the right to be forgotten.

The impact of the ruling has yet to be seen but the internet giant fears it could be used by unscrupulous people to hide true information about themselves.

“To comply with the recent European court ruling, we’ve made a webform available for Europeans to request the removal of results from our search engine,” a Google spokesperson said.

“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. We’re creating an expert advisory committee to take a thorough look at these issues. We’ll also be working with data protection authorities and others as we implement this ruling.”

The committe will be headed by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and general counsel David Drummond and will include academics and former data protection regulators from across Europe as well as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

One of the members of the advisory committee Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Infomration at the University of Oxford said the task ahead would require “some hard and rather philosophical thinking.”

Ruling hinders next generation of start-ups

Google CEO Larry Page didn’t mince his words in a Financial Times interview whereby he warned that the “right to be forgotten” ruling risks damaging the next generation of internet start-ups and strengthens the hand of repressive governments looking to restrict online communications.

He said that he regretted Google hadn’t been more active in European dialogue on the issue of privacy before now.

“We’re trying now to be more European and think about it maybe more from a European context.

“A very significant amount of time is going to be spent in Europe talking,” Page warned.

Censorship image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years