Google EU Ruling Response Vetted as Complaints Pile Up

Google Inc. faces continued scrutiny over its response to a court ruling on the right to be forgotten after regulators from across the European Union said they’d received complaints from the public.

The EU’s 28 privacy regulators continue “to analyze how search engines are complying with the ruling” in May, the authorities said in a statement today following a two-day meeting in Brussels. The data watchdogs said they’d agreed on a “tool box” on a “coordinated and consistent approach” to handle complaints from people unhappy with Google’s response.

The world’s largest search provider was ordered by an EU court in May to pull links in search results on a person’s name on request if the information was outdated or irrelevant. Privacy regulators were told by the court to deal with complaints about Google’s decisions.

Regulators across the EU “have received complaints as a result of search engines’ refusals to de-list complainants from their results,” the panel said in the statement. “This illustrates that the ruling has addressed a genuine demand for data protection.”

Google Target

The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office said it had received 91 complaints over takedown requests -- all targeting decisions made by Google. Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner said it got 17 complaints. Some 120,000 requests have been made to Google for it to cut links, affecting 457,000 Internet addresses as of Sept. 1, the company said last week.

Data chiefs didn’t comment on whether Google should tell websites about removals. Officials have criticized the notifications for drawing more attention to the personal information someone is seeking to hide. Regulators are also weighing whether Google should also remove links from European views of its U.S.-based google.com site.

‘Decision Maker’

Al Verney, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Google “didn’t ask to be the decision maker” on deletions, company Chairman Eric Schmidt said last week. Google, which opposes the EU judgment, wants to stoke a wider debate as EU lawmakers and governments finalize new data-protection rules that define the right to be forgotten. The company is holding several public hearings across Europe to discuss the implications of the ruling.

The Mountain View, California-based company publishes a notice on most searches on a person’s name to warn that results may have been redacted -- even if they haven’t been. Newspapers in the U.K. have published reports about notifications they’ve received that reprint details of the original story that someone wants removed from search results.

When Google removes a link, it does so across all its European websites but not its U.S.-based google.com site. Google.com gets fewer than 5 percent of user searches in Europe, the European Commission has said.

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