Google meets with EU over 'right to be forgotten'

The European Union is reportedly concerned that Google isn't doing enough to hide search results internationally.

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Google's efforts with the European Union's "right to be forgotten" law may not be going far enough, according to a new report.

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are expected to meet with EU officials on Thursday to discuss their efforts in adhering to "right to be forgotten," Reuters reported, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the meetings. Of particular interest to the EU officials, however, is Google's handling of search results, which they say, hasn't gone far enough to safeguard affected users.

The issue for EU regulators, according to Reuters, is that Google is localizing its efforts to its European search engines, which technically means that if users search for the same content on its US-based search engine, for example, they can see the results hidden in Europe.

The "right to be forgotten" law is one that Google has battled for some time. First brought to the floor in Spain and eventually deemed legal by the EU's highest court, "right to be forgotten" puts the onus on search engines to hide search results on individuals if the results are deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive."

Google has argued from the onset that the ruling is too onerous on search engines, requiring them to cull their own results and restrict access to certain pages deemed to fall into that category. The results aren't necessarily taken down from Google, but rather hidden when users search for terms related to a particular person.

In order to acquiesce to the EU's demands, Google has created an online portal for people to file their complaints. Google analyzes each request and determines whether it falls under the auspices of the ruling. If it does, the results are hidden. If not, the results remain live. In the latter case, the peson has the right to go to court to force Google to hide the results.

Google said it has so far received tens of thousands of requests to hide search results. Microsoft has established a similar portal, but has yet to say how many requests it has received.

Although Google has seemingly complied with the EU's requests in Europe, the fact that it isn't hiding search results outside the EU's jurisdiction will be a particularly thorny topic at Thursday's meeting, Reuters' sources say. Google has argued that the ruling only applies to search engines it operates in the EU, while regulators say that it should apply to all Google search results worldwide.

It appears that Microsoft and Yahoo will also be given clarity on what the EU expects, including how search results should be handled worldwide.

Looking ahead, Google might have few options. According to the Reuters sources, if the company doesn't comply with the EU's requests, it could conceivably be brought to court and be forced to modify results worldwide. Whether that will happen, however, is unknown at this point.

CNET has contacted Google for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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