Google may highlight search results dropped due to 'right to be forgotten' demands

Google may highlight search results dropped due to 'right to be forgotten' demands

Summary: Links that Europeans have asked Google to erase could be highlighted in a new notifications system.

Google may alert users when search results have been erased as a result of last month's "right to be forgotten" ruling by Europe's highest court. Image: Google

Similar to Google's method of handling links it's removed due to copyright violation complaints, the search giant may start alerting users when search results have been scrubbed as a result of European citizens' requests to be forgotten.

According to The Guardian, Google is considering placing an alert at the bottom of each page where it has removed a result on the basis of last month's controversial "right to be forgotten" ruling by Europe's highest court.

The court ruled that Europeans have a right to ask Google (or another search engine) to remove certain links that are returned for searches on their name if the material is no longer relevant or outdated. The page that the link led to, however, would still remain available.

At the end of May, Google launched an online form for citizens to file their "right to be forgotten" requests and last week revealed that it had received 41,000 to date.

The figures were released as Europe's privacy watchdogs met in Brussels to hash out how they would handle requests made in their countries. Under the ruling, search engines are obliged to consider the merits of each request and if the request is denied, the request-maker can take their complaint to their local data protection regulator.

ZDNet has asked Google if it will begin placing notifications on pages where it has removed links due to "right to be forgotten" requests. It has not responded to the request, but we'll update the story if any comment is forthcoming.

As noted by The Guardian, the notifications would be similar to how Google discloses that it has removed a link after receiving takedown requests under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

When links have been removed from a list of search results, Google provides a notification at the bottom of that page and link to a separate page at, which displays the name of the complainant, the title of the copyrighted content and a list of allegedly infringing URLs.

Google has argued that the European ruling sacrifices the right to know in favour of privacy rights. However, others, such as the UK's privacy watchdog, have countered that the ruling does not mean that citizens have an absolute right to be forgotten.

Until Europe's regulators set guidelines for how search companies should handle link removal requests, Google will rely on the judgement of its council of advisers, which include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Luciano Floridi, a philosopher at the Oxford Internet Institute. The pair will be part of the team that will shape Google's policy following the European Court of Justice ruling.

Read more on the right to be forgotten

Topics: Government, Google, Privacy, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • So a granted removal draws even more attention to you?

    For g*d's sake, what is Google thinking? This is bad.
    • Fair is fair

      Google is being compelled to do this. Courts can do that, but they can't legitimately order the recipients of such orders not to complain about it.
      John L. Ries
  • Respect peoples privacy, Mr evil.

    • The know this ruling applies to bing, too?

      And don't be silly; they should deal with the source of the problem, not the signpost.

      It's like me asking Google to drop all mention of you, because zdnet hasn't got the balls to ban you.
      • bing needs searches first

        Do people really, knowingly, use bing? Maybe that is why Google was the one that was brought into court.
        Harlon Katz
    • You'd be taken a lot more seriously...

      ...if you dropped the namecalling, insults, and partisan drivel.
      John L. Ries
  • The "government" can protect shady characters.......

    .....but the shady characters cannot hide the TRUTH!
  • the right to know

    What the deuce - 'Google has argued that the European ruling sacrifices the right to know in favour of privacy rights'.

    Umm that's kinda the point of privacy rights - you having a say in who can know what about you.

    I've maintained for the past 10 years or so that Google was far more 'evil' than Microsoft and this just adds another point in favor of that.

    I always figured that hey at least Microsoft was upfront about 'a PC in every home and on every desk' running their software - whereas google always tried to hide its true intentions with the 'trust us because we aren't them' attitude...
    • A bit disjointed??

      This will also apply Microsoft.

      After all, you can search Bing for criminal actions by an individual.
      • it applies to all the search companies

        But at least most others 'gathering info' are doing it to provide improved services - which I don't mind as it helps bring improvements to our experiences with the software.

        What I don't like is the 'improved services AND so we can make more selling ads AND btw we don't think you should have a choice in the matter'.
        • Contrary to common belief

          most search engines don't do their own spidering. A handful of companies such as Google and Microsoft do spidering and then sell access to their database. The reason results vary is that some third-party search engines use their own algorithms to pull and order results.
    • Google is NOT evil

      Google to me is not evil, it just wants data about you. What you buy, where you surf on the web.
      How much time you use the web, get to know more about you to steer you to products you want, sites you may like and determine your future. Some people find this useful, some creepy and some just plain would rather go back to writing letters and throw the PC out. I personally, don't care, I have had plenty of government back ground checks, certainly been monitored and had my identity stolen. Yep, its part of the digital world and you either deal with it or start living in a cave. Google already has collected far more information on you then you can imagine and it probably will get more. If your paranoid about this your not going to be able to do much about it. Besides going off the grid and yet that will never erase what Google already knows about you.
      • see above...

        I don't have an issue with data collection pursue - it's the reasons behind and attitude about the data collection that makes google 'evil'.

        I actually turn on the data tracking on most of my Microsoft stuff - I turn it off for all the ad related stuff but on for the customer experience stuff because that is helping provide feedback that goes into future enhancements of the products. I also couldn't case less what facebook does with my info - because I have a CHOICE in what information I post and therefore make available to them.

        Google on the other hand takes the - we don't care about your choices we are going to track as much as we can because we can and we can then use it to make more money from advertising.
    • Fading ink or else

      It seem to me that stored online discussions such as these can also also violate EU privacy regulations.

      Maybe even linked footnotes and bibliographies. The Net NEVER forgets.
  • Will incognito become the norm?

    I wonder sometimes if the EU will force a zero remembering policy at some point. Its so funny to read stuff like this, and yet see so many on Facebook and other social sites. As if Google is the only "evil" data miner on the web. Google obviously has the capacity to store a lot of information and yet why is it we complain more about Google storing it, then are governments looking at it?
    Even if your a porn surfer or some other discrete thing you do on the web. Do you really think Google is the only one monitoring your web movements? I can see the next big service coming as people flock to services and proxy servers in order to hide their surfing history. Good luck with that.
  • The EU ruling was nuts!

    So somebody can publish some old defunct information about you, and if you live in the EU, you can request Google stop linking to it using your name as a keyword. But the information is still there on the web? It seems to me that if information is on the web, we need tools to find it if it is to be useful to anybody... that's Google. If the information is objectionable, the actual information should then be the problem, not the Google or Bing links to it. EU should make it possible to have the actual data removed or corrected, then any search engine references to it should be scrubbed, too.
    Elwood Diverse
    • Just the EU

      The whole digital world isn't affected by this ruling so if you want to not have your results filtered by this ridiculous ruling you can simply use and of the Non-EU based services including GOOGLE.COM or BING.COM.

      This whole thing smells so bad of someone making money out of it somewhere that I don't have sleepless nights about Google spreading my data all over the web but I cannot rest easily worrying about the corruption of European politics ... is it 1984 yet?
    • dark net

      You do know that something like 80-90% of all data on the internet is not indexed by any of the major search engines right?

      So this EU ruling in effect will have little impact beyond reinforcing an individuals right to have a say in what information about them is indexed, while as you rightly point out - not fixing the underlying problem of the data residing somewhere to start with.
  • Note to EU: Be careful what you wish for

    Who didn't see this coming?

    Every removed link will end up posted to servers outside the EU. Anybody who applies to be "forgotten" will instead be permanently and conspicuously enshrined in the hall of shame.

    The EU will whine and complain, but won't be able to stop it.
  • new search engine

    Has anybody set up a search engine yet to automatically compare search results between the EU and US versions of Google Search that returns just the differences? It will be a great tool, as it will just return the stuff that people in the EU want hidden, and save a lot of time compared to sifting though the current results looking for dirt.