Want to be forgotten by Google? Here's how you do it

Want to be forgotten by Google? Here's how you do it

Summary: Google has launched a form where those who want the search giant to stop linking to outdated information about them can file their request.

TOPICS: Legal, Google, EU
Court of Justice of the European Union
A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice has spurred Google to open up a web form for those who want to be forgotten by the search engine. Image: Court of Justice of the European Union

After a ruling from Europe's top court that Google should remove links to 'outdated information' about individuals at their request, the search giant has opened up an online form for those wanting to be forgotten.

The decision on the  'right to be forgotten' was handed down earlier this month after Google appealed an order by the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) to remove links to articles about an individual published in a Spanish newspaper in 1998.

The AEPD ruling came after a Spanish national found links to the articles, which contained details about a real-estate auction that was held to settle social security debts, after searching for his own name online. He requested they be removed, as he believed the articles contained information about him which was no longer relevant.

Following the ruling, many other individuals have approached Google to remove links to information about them that they consider outdated.

Now, the company has launched a form where individuals can make their 'right to be forgotten' requests online.

The form asks for a user's details, the links to the 'outdated information', and an explanation of why they should be removed.

Anyone wanting to use the form will also need to provide a scan of their photo ID, to stop fraudulent attempts to remove information.

"Google often receives fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information," it says.

Google notes that the form is just its first try at working out the takedown mechanism, and it will be "working with data protection authorities" to develop it in future.

The company has published no timeline on when users can expect their requests to be dealt with.

"We will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information," it says.

"When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information — for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials."

Unsurprisingly, the European Court of Justice's ruling was not met with enthusiasm by Google. At a recent annual shareholder meeting, Google's chairman Eric Schmidt told investors the case was "a collision between the right to be forgotten and the right to know".

"From Google's perspective that's a balance… You have to find a balance. Google believes, having looked at the decision, which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong," he said. 

Read more on this case

Topics: Legal, Google, EU

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Amazing!

    What a trade-off! You petition Google to "delink" you and in return you provide Google with a name and a photo to go with it by which Goggle can "remember" and file you away for future use! Heidegger, with his concept of "standing reserve" (Bestand), may not have been too far off.
    • Would you prefer to be defrauded?

      Say, by having your profit bearing web site deleted?
  • Only applies to European domains, apparently

    According to the reports on this, the "right to be forgotten", only applies to the respective EU domains of Google.
    So I could get a link removed from google.co.uk, but it will still be available under google.com.
    So, just do all your investigation under the .com domain, and find everything.
    Useless law, completely out of touch with the global reach of the internet (link most censorship that fails)
    • Naturally

      Google is doing this to comply with a court order; not because management believes in the principle on which the law is predicated (fair enough, I don't either). If you do business in a foreign country, then you are obliged to follow its laws and to recognize its duly constituted authorities. That is what Google is doing here.
      John L. Ries
      • To put it more succinctly...

        ...if you accept a corporate or business license from a foreign government, then you are contractually obligated to accept its jurisdiction and to obey its laws when doing business in the country concerned. If you can't do that and both follow your conscience and obey the laws of your home jurisdiction, then you are obligated to cease to do business in the foreign jurisdiction.
        John L. Ries
  • What of other search engines who store the same information?

    This is Microsoft and pre-installing IE all over again. No one stopped Apple from including Safari with OS X or forcing the iPad default web browser to only be Safari.
    • If they have a presence in the EU...

      ...they will no doubt be compelled sooner or later to comply with the court's decision.

      If they don't, then there really isn't anything the EU or its member states can do about them.
      John L. Ries
      • It's like enforcing copyright or patent rights --

        it doesn't happen automatically. Just because there is a court decision doesn't mean that every entity will immediately comply.

        Right now apparently there is no governmental agency that enforces the ruling. So if someone requests another search engine to remove information, that company could respond, "We think our situation is different and therefore the Google ruling doesn't apply to this case." Don't like that response? -- they'll have to sue.

        By the way, only the U.S. and a handful of Canadian provinces allow contingent attorney fees. ALL other countries require an attorney to charge for his time, whether he wins or not. So if someone DOES decide to sue ... they've got to pay their lawyer whether they win or not.

        (And in the U.S., the normal rule is that a winning party CAN'T recover his attorney fees from the losing party, unless there is a contractual agreement to pay fees or a specific law authorizing award of fees.)
        • But a precedent has been set

          Admittedly, Spain is a civil law jurisdiction, so precedent is not considered to be legally binding, but if there is one lawsuit in which the plaintiff prevails, there will undoubtedly be a rash of similar ones.
          John L. Ries
  • Fraud

    is the first thing I thought of when I heard of the ruling.

    "Anyone wanting to use the form will also need to provide a scan of their photo ID, to stop fraudulent attempts to remove information. "

    I can produce a scan of *A* photo ID that represents someone very easily. It's just not their real ID, but I can describe them for everything short of the drivers license number. Is Google authenticating these with regulating authorities (DMV, DOT, etc.), or just corroborating the info contained against their own existing records of an individual? Or, are they paying the cost of a legit background check for each free request?

    One new vector of identity theft: erasure. Especially if there's no credit to leverage.

    Wouldn't such an attempt qualify as wire fraud, a federal crime?
    • Mainly not relevant

      They're talking about the right to remove links to ONE piece of data, not EVERYTHING Google has. I've been doing genealogy research and on a single old-newspapers site I found about 30 articles from the 1880-1909 about Major General John Joseph Coppinger. That would require 30 separate requests. And that's just for THAT site.

      Also, keep in mind that many nations have a "national identity card", which is very different from the U.S., where the closest thing we have are ID cards or driver's licenses from individual states.

      Regarding wire fraud being a crime, presumably the EU has law similar to the U.S. The problem is that EVERY large society has more crime than the authorities can handle. So they have to allocate limited resources. Do we spend money tracking down and prosecuting rapists, robbers, drug dealers, etc., or do we apply the funds to prosecute someone who uses false information to get one link removed from one search engine?
      • Criminal acts

        Like fraud are prosecuted under the national laws of the country where the offence took place.
        The EU is only "useful" for all the appeals logged, claiming some violation of human rights.....
        • Doesn't change my point.

          Are the local police and prosecutors going to spend money prosecuting organized crime, robbers, etc., or prosecuting people who submit a fake ID to Google to have one link removed?

          And who's going to report the crime anyway? Remember -- if they give FAKE ID, that means YOU DON'T KNOW THE FRAUDSTER'S REAL IDENTITY. So the criminal complaint would be, "We here at Google had SOMEBODY send us a link removal request using the attached fake ID. We don't know their name, address, gender, description or ANYTHING ELSE except that they could read and write (specific language) and MAYBE the IP address is real.

          Yup -- the police will be all over THAT complaint!
      • I'll note...

        ...that Gen. Coppinger is no longer in a position to request deletion of anyone's data. Whether EU law confers a "right to be forgotten" on persons long dead, I have no idea (it's shouldn't, but that's not my call).

        Regardless, the best way to demonstrate that a law is wrong-headed is to consistently enforce it.
        John L. Ries
        • You missed the point.

          All those articles except the ones about his death were written during his life. The point is that each article has a separate link on THAT site. If he were still alive, getting that site to remove ALL references would require about 30 separate requests.

          And that is NOT Google. It's ONE guy with ONE computer (it's his hobby). There are other sites like NewspaperArchive and Highbeam that have way more than 10 times the number of articles he has.
    • Is it a federal crime?

      Is Google Authenticating with the DMV, DOT?

      Did you read the article??

      It's an EU rule, what the f**k does it have to do with the US??
      • Similarities

        Yes, I did read it.
        Rick_R actually clarified this for me, noting specific differences about ID cards. His reply was helpful whereas yours got flagged.
  • The EU will suffer

    the people won't be able to find the links they need after this moronic decision.
    without it Europe will plunge into darkness!
    LlNUX Geek
  • Ha ha!

    Sending a photo id to Google is like replying to a spam sender asking him to remove you from the mailing list. You are merely giving Google another accurate data point and increasing the ranking of your data in the search results!

    Note that it does not say what can be forgotten. It is up to a non-transparent Google.