Google Inc.’s attempts to handle requests from citizens that want to use their new-found “right to be forgotten” will be examined by a special taskforce of European privacy watchdogs.
The panel will look at how regulators should react to complaints from citizens about Google’s management of requests to delete online details, according to a member of the so-called Article 29 group of privacy watchdogs, which approved the step at a meeting in Brussels today.
The EU’s top court ruled last month that search engines must delete some personal information on request where Europeans’ fundamental rights are harmed and there’s no public interest in publishing it. Google said it got 41,000 requests to remove data in the first four days after it created an online form for people to ask for their data to be removed.
The right-to-be-forgotten ruling was a surprise for Google and other companies already facing greater scrutiny over privacy practices in the 28-nation EU. The bloc is seeking to increase the powers of data-protection watchdogs to impose fines for violations. Revelations of widespread U.S. spying on EU citizens, including top politicians such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have added to the clamor for privacy safeguards.
‘Hawks and Doves’
The backlash against U.S. surveillance “has raised the temperature around discussions of protecting the privacy of individuals,” said Alex Mason, a lawyer at Baker Botts LLP in London. Among EU regulators “there will be hawks and doves in different countries trying to have their view prevail. Some will be pushing for greater privacy, others will looking for more freedom of information to facilitate global business.”
Watchdogs from the EU’s 28 nations and national courts have the responsibility for ruling on any disputes people have over Google’s decisions to remove data.
Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. The world’s biggest search provider is required by the court to make “difficult judgments about an individual’s right to be forgotten and the public’s right to know,” Mountain View, California-based Google said last month.
Google previously resisted orders by data-protection regulators to remove content, including about 200 cases where Spain’s data-protection authority told it to pull content. Its challenge to a Spanish order for it to remove information on a man whose house was auctioned off led to the EU court ruling last month.
Google is separately seeking to settle a European Union antitrust probe over allegations that it discriminates against rivals in search results. Companies that have filed complaints against the search provider met with regulators to discuss the proposed settlement over the past two weeks.