Google: We've been asked to delist 2.4 million URLs but only removed 43%

Google says 20 percent of all 'right to be forgotten' requests come from less than one percent of requesters.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

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Google has released new figures for its Right to be Forgotten Transparency report and published a new study revealing who requests delistings and what information these people want removed from results.

Since May 2014, Google has been complying with the European Court of Justice's Right to be Forgotten ruling, which allows individuals to ask Google and other search engines to delist results for searches involving a person's name.

Google released fresh figures in its Transparency Report for the law on Monday and says it has now received a total of 654,808 requests to remove 2,436,788 URLs. However Google has only delisted 43.3 percent of the URLs it has reviewed.

The company, which has opposed the court decision and enforcement by Europe's privacy watchdogs, has also added new data to its transparency report with information about the type of requesters, what kind of content the requests relate to, and the type of site the request are for, such as a directory, government page, social media or news.

The content includes "personal information, professional information, crime, and name not found, meaning that we were not able to find the individual's name on the page".

Google draws attention to a small group of requesters that account for an outsized proportion of requests. In a new study, 'Three years of the Right to be Forgotten', it says the top 1,000 requesters, which account for 0.25 percent of all requesters, filed 14.5 percent of requests and 20.8 percent of delistings.

The group consisted mostly of law firms and reputation-management agencies, with just under half of these being based in Germany, France and the UK, according to the researchers.

The study also notes that 35 percent of requesters only request one URL to be delisted, while 75 percent request five or fewer URLs.

"These results illustrate that while hundreds of thousands of Europeans rely on the RTBF to delist a handful of URLs, there are thousands of entities using the RTBF to alter hundreds of URLs about them or their clients that appears in search results," the authors of the paper note.

The study also details the delisting rates for various groups of requesters to highlight how Google balances public interest in its delisting reviews.

How it weighs up these interests will be put to the test in two court cases filed recently in the UK by two anonymous businessmen regarding results linking to old convictions.

The vast majority of requesters are individual adults who requested 858,852 URLs to be delisted since January 2016. Google delisted 44 percent of the URLs. Minors were behind 5.4 percent of requested URLs of which it opted to delist 78 percent.

Public figures have much lower delisting rates. Non-government public figures such as celebrities are responsible for 4.1 percent of requested URLs and had 35 percent of them delisted.

Government officials and politicians requested 33,973 URLs be delisted, of which Google delisted 11.7 percent. Corporate entities had also requested 22,739 URLs be delisted but Google did not agree to a single URL.

The EU privacy law has put Google at odds with France's regulators, which wanted Google to apply delistings globally, rather than just to the Google's domain for the country the request was filed in.

That fight was sent to Europe's top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), last July and is still under its consideration.


As well as updating its Transparency Report, Google has summarized requests over the past three years.

Image: Google

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