Google struggles with standards for deluge of 'right to be forgotten' requests

Google says it has struggled to comply with a deluge of take-down requests from individuals seeking to exercise their so-called “right to be forgotten,” since a European court established that principle in May.

And the search giant has asked a panel of experts to help figure out how to meet what a top Google executive called “very vague and subjective” standards set by the court.

More than 70,000 requests to remove information from search results have come in since the court ruling was handed down two months ago, according to Google chief legal officer David Drummond, who said the requests involve some 250,000 web pages.

“It’s a huge task,” he added in a company blog post, which was also published as an op-ed essay by several European newspapers. Drummond also acknowledged that Google has made some errors and later reinstated links to some articles that were removed “incorrectly” last week.

Some of the reinstated links involved articles in a British newspaper, The Guardian, about a soccer referee who was accused of lying about a controversial game decision. Google has not explained exactly why those links and others were removed, but the decisions created a storm of controversy in Europe.

Drummond said other take-down requests “highlight the difficult value judgements” involved in complying with the court’s order, which said a person has the right to ask for links to be removed if they include the person’s name and information that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive.”

He went on to describe other examples:

“… former politicians wanting posts removed that criticize their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret). In each case, someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue it should be out in the open.”

Members of the new ten-member advisory council include Drummond, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, several legal experts and academics and one journalist, Sylvie Kaufmann, who is editorial director at the French newspaper Le Monde.

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (350 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.