EU Privacy Watchdogs and Search Engines Meet Next Week

European Union privacy regulators will meet search-engine providers next week to discuss how they should enforce a “right to be forgotten” created by a court ruling in May, the EU group of watchdogs said.

Regulators will develop “elaborate, coordinated and coherent guidelines” to handle complaints over refusals by Google Inc. and others to remove information, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said in a statement on its website today. Search-engine providers will discuss the implementation of the court ruling at a July 24 meeting in Brussels for rules to be issued later this year.

Google is grappling with “vague and subjective tests” set by an EU court in May for how it must handle requests by people who want outdated or irrelevant information about them removed from search results on their names, the company’s top lawyer said in a blog post last week. Privacy regulators must weigh search providers’ refusal to delete links, the court said.

Microsoft Corp. will attend the meeting, said Robin Koch, a spokesman for the company in Brussels. Google “plans to cooperate with privacy officials,” said Al Verney, a spokesman for the Mountain-View, California-based company.

Johannes Caspar, the privacy regulator for the German state of Hamburg, said he was concerned about Google’s policy of alerting websites about deleted links.

Personal Information

There isn’t any legal basis for the alerts, which he said violates a person’s privacy and increases the risk that the site’s owner will notify the public to a removal of personal information, he said in a telephone interview.

Google told the watchdog in a response to questions that it has rejected more than 10 percent of the requests to take down entries, Caspar said, declining to provide the precise figure because the information isn’t public.

Google, which has more than 90 percent of the search market in Europe, says it’s received 70,000 take-down requests covering 250,000 webpages since May. Microsoft put a form online yesterday to accept requests for its Bing search engine.

Yahoo! Inc. said yesterday it was developing a solution for its users in Europe to balance privacy and freedom of expression, according to an e-mailed statement.