Google already being asked to remove search results

EU ruling requiring Google to delete search results that infringe upon a person's privacy has already triggered a few takedown requests, a source familiar with the situation confirms to CNET.

google-home-page.jpg
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

A doctor, a politician, and a pedophile all want links to online information about them to disappear following a ruling that Google has to delete certain search results upon request.

On Tuesday, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that Google and other online companies must comply with requests from an individual to remove search results if those results contain information that might infringe on the person's privacy. Google naturally criticized the ruling, calling it "disappointing" and telling CNET that it now needs "to take time to analyze the implications."

Well, those implications have already started to pour in, at least in the form of three takedown requests reported by BBC News on Thursday.

In one request, a doctor wants negative feedback from patients at a review site to vanish from search results. In another request, an ex-politician wants Google to exorcise links to an article about his behavior while in office. And in a third, a man convicted of possessing child pornography would like links to pages about his conviction to disappear.

Google has not publicly shared any specifics on the number or type of takedown requests it has seen since Tuesday's "right-to-be-forgotten" ruling. But a source familiar with the situation confirmed to CNET the three requests cited by BBC News.

The ruling itself requires Google to remove the search results to online information and not the information itself. But the onus would still be on the search giant to review each individual request and decide what to do in response.

According to the decision, if the search engine refuses to take down the links, then individuals may "bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results."

At a meeting with shareholders Wednesday, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said that the court struck the wrong balance between the right to be forgotten and the right to know. Google's senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer David Drummond added: "We think it went too far, and didn't consider adequately the impact on free expression, which is absolutely a human right."

But the court's binding decision puts Google into a sticky situation. A spokesperson for Google sent CNET the following statement:

"The ruling has significant implications for how we handle takedown requests. This is logistically complicated -- not least because of the many languages involved and the need for careful review. As soon as we have thought through exactly how this will work, which may take several weeks, we will let our users know."

Update, 10:15 a.m. PT: Adds information obtained by CNET from a source.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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