Google Inc. has started removing some search results in the European Union after an EU court told it last month to respond to requests by people seeking the “right to be forgotten.”
The world’s largest search provider has taken down a link to a Spanish newspaper notice that was the target of a court case by Mario Costeja Gonzalez -- a calligrapher who sought to remove a link to information about his past. Below a search on his name, Google now shows a statement saying that “some results may have been removed under data-protection law in Europe.” The link to a page of La Vanguardia was available earlier this week.
“Mr. Gonzalez’s desire for Internet anonymity is still someway off,” Richard Cumbley, a lawyer at Linklaters LLP in London, said by e-mail. “A search for ‘gonzalez 1998 vanguardia’ will still return a link to that notice,” and European users could find it by re-routing access to a U.S. server to get unfiltered results.
The company started offering an online tool to allow people to ask for search results to be redacted after the EU Court of Justice ruled on May 13 that citizens’ fundamental rights could be harmed by information on the Web and where there’s no public interest in publishing it. 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.
‘Round the Clock’
Google has “been working round the clock to comply” with the court ruling, the company said on its website. It will assess each individual request and “balance the rights of the individual to control his or her personal data with” the public’s right to know and distribute information, it said. To qualify for removal, personal information needs to be “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive.”
Mountain View, California-based Google is “starting to take action on the removals requests that we’ve received,” said Al Verney, a spokesman for the company in Brussels. “Each request has to be assessed individually and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue.”
Google is posting the same statement that results may have been redacted on most searches made by Europeans on a person’s name, the company said. The notice appears even on searches for people who haven’t requested any data be taken off the web, it said on its website.
While the company has said it’s received more than 50,000 requests to remove personal information from search results, it won’t specify how many it has got to date.