Google Must Weigh Each Right to Forget Request, Regulators Say

Google Inc. will have to review requests to delete personal information on a case-by-case basis to comply with a European Union court ruling, privacy regulators said.

Decisions on whether to remove links to websites that contain personal information will have to balance a range of issues including how sensitive the data is and the public interest in the information, a group of EU data protection regulators said in a statement today.

Last week’s ruling by the EU Court of Justice opens the way for European users to flood Internet firms with so-called takedown requests, adding costs and time to what they already do in content removal. Google, and other search engines, will have to make the first decision about whether to remove links that may infringe privacy rights before regulators or courts intervene.

The ruling “answers a social demand that has been expressed in the last two years” for people to be in control of their digital data, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, the head of the EU regulators, known as the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, said in a phone interview today. “Even if they are online more, people want the possibility to delete what they put online.”

Analyze Consequences

The Article 29 group will meet June 3-4 to discuss their response to the ruling, it said in the statement. Talks will “analyze the consequences” of the judgment and “identify guidelines in order to build a common approach” on how regulators should put the court decision into practice.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment.

Regulators need to agree how to respond to the ruling because they may have to handle any complaints on a decision by Google on removing their personal information, according to the court judgment. While Google has contacted several of the European regulators on the court case, “we thought it would be better to have a general approach” by all European watchdogs, said Falque-Pierrotin, who also heads the French data protection regulator.

Regulators in both Germany and Ireland have said they had spoken with Google about the verdict. Google said that the company would release an online tool to remove personal information, Arne Gerhard, a spokesman for privacy officials in Hamburg, Germany, said earlier this week.

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