Microsoft joins Google in accepting 'right to be forgotten' requests

Microsoft has launched a form to allow Europeans to ask it to remove certain links from Bing search results.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Following in Google's footsteps, Microsoft has begun taking 'right to be forgotten' requests.

The company has opened up a form where the requests can be filed, allowing individuals to request that Bing stop providing links to certain web pages in the search results for their names.

The move, announced last week, follows a European Court of Justice ruling earlier this year that stipulated European citizens can ask search engines to remove particular links from the results they return when a search is performed on their name, if the material is deemed to be out of date, no longer relevant, or excessive.

Google began taking requests for de-linking under the ruling in May, and is thought to have received 70,000 requests since then.

Last month it removed the first batch of links from search results, and then subsequently restored some of them. With no official guidance from local data protection authorities on how the ruling should be put into practice, it's up to search engines to decide whether the requests are legitimate or not.

It's unlikely that Microsoft will receive the same volume of 'right to be forgotten' requests as Google has, given its share of the European search market relative to Google's: it's thought Google has more than 90 percent of the European search market, while Bing's share is in the low single figures.

Microsoft's form is more detailed than its Google equivalent, asking for more data points to inform its decision making. Microsoft says on the form it will "consider the balance between your individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, consistent with European law. As a result, making a request does not guarantee that a particular search result will be blocked."

While Microsoft has largely remained silent on the 'right to be forgotten' ruling, Google has repeatedly denounced the ECJ decision. Google chairman Eric Schmidt called the case "a collision between the right to be forgotten and the right to know". He said: "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."

The company's chief legal officer David Drummond has also criticised the ruling for stipulating that links can be removed for material that is considered "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive", saying such a definition is too vague and subjective.

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