Google removes ‘right to be forgotten’ links worldwide for searches in Europe
Google will now block search results across all of its domains if a search occurs within Europe, in response to discussions with European Union regulators. The right to be be forgotten allows Europeans to demand search engines to delist particular links from the collection of search results generated by a search query for their name.
Google announced in a blog post that the company will adapt their approach to delisting search results under the “right to be forgotten” (in reality to be delisted) in Europe. Starting this week, Google will also use geolocation signals (such as IP addresses) to restrict access to the delisted URL on all Google Search domains, google.com included, when accessed from the country of the person requesting the removal. Until now, when someone submitted a URL for delisting via Google’s webform and the company decided that their request meets the criteria set by the Court of Justice a couple of years ago (the information to be delisted must be irrelevant, inadequate, excessive or no longer relevant), Google delisted the URL from the search results generated in response to a search for their name from all European versions of Google Search concurrently.
Google’s right to be forgotten: The wheels are turning
According to an example provided by Google, when the company delists a URL as a result of a request from John Smith in the United Kingdom, users in this country would not see the URL in search results for queries containing Mr Smith’s name when searching on any Google Search domain, including google.com. However, users outside of the UK could see the URL in search results when they search for Mr Smith’s name on any non-European Google Search domain.
Google explained that the company is changing its approach as a result of specific discussions that they have had with EU data protection regulators in recent months. “We believe that this additional layer of delisting enables us to provide the enhanced protections that European regulators ask us for, while also upholding the rights of people in other countries to access lawfully published information,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel wrote in the blog post.
How about Microsoft and Yahoo?
In 2014, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo met with EU data protection authorities to discuss the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union.Following the meeting, Microsoft started accepting requests from European users who wish to remove search links from Bing. Although the removal of links is not guaranteed, the first removals occurred months after the option was instated.
A Yahoo spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal in late 2014 that the company “will carefully evaluate each request with the goal of balancing the individual’s right to privacy with considerations of the public’s right to information.”
David C. Drummond, Google’s senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian just two months after the tech giants’ discussion with EU regulators that “in deciding what to remove search engines must also have regard to the public interest, These are, of course, very vague and subjective tests.” Google has now acknowledged that “despite occasional disagreements, we’ve maintained a collaborative dialogue with data protection authorities throughout. We’re committed to continuing to work in this way,” Fleischer explained.