UPDATE: Google and the “right to be forgotten”

Posted: May 30, 2014

Google’s form for asking for material to be removed from search results against a person’s name went live today (30 May 2014), following the recent high profile decision of the European Union Court of Justice. The judgment is undoubtedly going to have major ramifications for Europeans and Google alike. Much has been written about the potential negative effects of the judgment (and there are going to some), but there are also many positives. There are many situations where it would be wrong for a person to be judged or affected by a single event, comment or circumstance in their lives. Provided there are suitable safeguards in place to protect the public interest in situations where the public should remain informed, the “right to be forgotten” is going to prove very useful for many deserving individuals.

Google’s form can be found here:

https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_eudpa?product=websearch&hl=en

For Google to evaluate a request, a person must:

 (a) Provide the URL for each link that they would like removed;

 (b) Explain, if not clear, why the linked page is about them (or the person they are acting on behalf);

 (c) Explain how the URL in search results is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate”.

Quite how Google are going to assess the millions of requests they will undoubtedly receive, and against what criteria, remains to be seen. It is an unenviable task but one which is now required under European Data Protection laws. Perhaps they will eventually succeed in outsourcing the task to the Information Commissioners in each country. Whoever takes on the task it is likely to keep many people busy for a long time.

There are many situations where it would be best practice to wait before submitting a request, as no one knows exactly how things will develop and because of the potential to generate publicity about the very thing a person may legitimately want forgotten. It is important to note that Google state that:

“After you submit this form we may forward your request, and any accompanying details, to the relevant data protection authority, and we may inform webmaster(s) whose content is removed from our search results as a result of your complaint.”

Lastly, just because the form has gone live doesn’t mean that a request will be dealt with expeditiously. This is the message currently being received following a submitted requested:

“Hi,

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We are currently building our system for removing links from our search results according to EU data protection law. In the meantime, your message is in our queue. Once we have our system up and running, we’ll process your request as quickly as our workload permits.

Regards,

The Google Team”

 

Gideon Benaim is Head of the Reputation Practice at Michael Simkins LLP