Google poised to act on 'right to be forgotten' requests, after 50,000 are filed

Google is expected to remove the first links from search results following Europe's landmark privacy ruling in May.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google is preparing to start removing the first batch of links from its search results in line with a European court ruling on the so-called 'right to be forgotten'.

According to The New York Times, Google will begin removing the first of those search results in June.

The European Court of Justice ruled in May that search engines are considered data controllers under European law and must therefore consider all requests by users to stop returning links to irrelevant or outdated information when  searches are made for their name. The pages the links lead to can, however, remain online and any link omissions will only occur when searches are made in Europe.

To comply with the ruling, Google last month launched a new web form for Europeans to file their removal requests. Within 24 hours, Google had received 12,000 submissions through the form, climbing to 41,000 after five days. Twenty days after launching the web form, the NYT says, that number hit 50,000. The new figures suggest the rate of requests being filed appears to have slowed.

Google began notifying those that have submitted a request this week that they would soon be acted upon, according to the NYT.

The ruling has put Google and its fellow search engines in the awkward position of having to determine whether removal requests comply with Europe's data protection laws. At Google, according to the report, submissions are being reviewed by an internal team led by Google's legal department.

If Google knocks back a request, the complainant can take their case to their local data protection authority for review.

Europe's data protection watchdogs are currently working on new guidelines to ensure complaints are handled consistently across the European Union. The guidelines are expected to be released by September but until then, Google and any other search engine that receives a request will have to assess its merits on their own.

Google has expressed its disappointment with the ruling, with the company's chairman Eric Schmidt saying the court struck the wrong balance between the right to know and right to be forgotten.

The Guardian reported earlier this month that Google is considering placing an alert at the bottom of each page where it has removed a result, similar to the way the company discloses that it has removed links after receiving takedown requests under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Google has established a council of advisors that will shape its policy in response to the ECJ ruling. The advisors include Schmidt and Google's chief counsel David Drummond who will sit alongside Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Luciano Floridi, a philosopher at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Google did not respond to request for comment.

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