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Google Restores Some Links Pulled on Privacy Law Ruling

Google Inc. (GOOG) restored links to some news articles that were removed to comply with a European Union court privacy ruling days after the deletions were criticized by publishers.

“Some but not all of the Guardian stories that Google hid in search results are now appearing once more,” Hayley Dunlop, a spokeswoman for the U.K.’s Guardian News & Media, said in an e-mail today. The Guardian said yesterday that Google informed it of the removal of six links to its articles, citing the EU ruling on the so-called right to be forgotten.

The Telegraph, also based in London, said Google told it that links to two 2010 articles about Scottish soccer referee Dougie McDonald had been reinstated.

Google was criticized by British Broadcasting Corp. journalist Robert Peston yesterday for removing a link that pointed to his 2007 article about Merrill Lynch & Co. Google’s head of communications Peter Barron told the BBC’s Today radio show today that the link was removed because it “relates to a commentator” who was “an ordinary member of the public” and Google’s decision to pull the link was “very much in line with the ruling.”

Google last month started removing links to stories that appear in search results on some people’s names after the EU Court of Justice ordered it to weigh requests from people who want harmful personal information taken down. While the court ruled that the right to privacy can trump the right to publication, it said that might not apply to people with a role in public life.

Restored Links

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, declined to immediately comment on whether links had been restored.

Google has received as many as 70,000 requests asking for the withdrawal of about 250,000 web links, Barron told the BBC. The company is aiming to deal with its obligation to weigh these requests “as responsibly as possible.”

The Guardian said it hadn’t received any correspondence from Google confirming that links had been removed “and it remains an unclear situation.” The newspaper “would urge Google to be transparent about the criteria it is using to make these decisions and how publishers can formally challenge them.”

The Daily Mail in London said this week it was also told links would be removed to stories on McDonald lying about his reasons for awarding a penalty, as well as about a Muslim worker who accused Cathay Pacific of racism and supermarket staff who posted derogatory comments about workers on social media.

Pulling links to articles is “is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like,” Martin Clarke, publisher of the Daily Mail’s MailOnline, said in an e-mailed statement.

A spokesman for the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office said the regulator hasn’t received any complaints over how Google has handled requests for removal.

The EU court’s decision to make Google responsible for deciding on such requests is “badly thought through,” said Luca Schiavoni, a telecommunications regulation analyst at Ovum in London. “The way it stands now, Google makes the first assessment, and there seems to be no way to challenge that,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net; Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net Peter Chapman, Robert Valpuesta

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