Google ‘right to be forgotten’ removals: 41 percent in the past year

One year after the sweeping “right to be forgotten” ruling in Europe, Google has released updated information about European privacy requests for search removals.

The tally: Google received 254,271 requests for removal and evaluated 922,638 URLs. It removed 41.3 percent of those URLs.

Google gave examples of the requests it received, as well as the action the company took. They include:

  • An individual who was convicted of a serious crime in the last five years but whose conviction was quashed on appeal asked us to remove an article about the incident. We removed the page from search results for the individual’s name.
  • A priest convicted for possession of child sexual abuse imagery asked us to remove articles reporting on his sentence and banishment from the church. We did not remove the pages from search results.
  • A victim of rape asked us to remove a link to a newspaper article about the crime. We have removed the page from search results for the individual’s name.
  • We received multiple requests from a single individual who asked us to remove 20 links to recent articles about his arrest for financial crimes committed in a professional capacity. We did not remove the pages from search results.

Google also listed the domains where the company has removed the most URLs from search, and they’re of the social persuasion: They include facebook.com, youtube.com, twitter.com, plus.google.com.

In May 2014, Europe’s highest court ruled that Google and other search engines must consider and take action on requests of removal of personal information from search results. As I noted then, the case involved a Spanish lawyer, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who fought with Google for years about removing links to legal notices about a debt that had already been settled.

Critics of the ruling called it a blow to the freedom of expression and free flow of information and a win for censorship.

How does Google decide what to take down? The Wall Street Journal got the lowdown on the process: The “easy” cases go to lawyers, paralegals, engineers — the company reportedly has dozens of people working on this. If the case isn’t so clear cut, it goes to a senior Google panel. We’ve written here that among those on a ten-member advisory panel are Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (who’s a critic of the ruling), and journalist Sylvie Kaufmann, who is editorial director at the French newspaper Le Monde.

Beyond Europe: While debate about the ruling’s implications continues, a recent poll of Americans showed 9 out of 10 would somewhat or strongly support a similar law in the United States.

 

Above: Google search screen grab

 

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