How Does Google Handle 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests?


About a month ago, a top European court ruled that people can now ask internet search engines to remove links to content that is inadequate, irrelevant or could be deemed to infringe on their right to privacy - the "Right To Be Forgotten". Since then, Google has received thousands of such requests from people to remove links that might infringe their privacy. But a request doesn't necessarily mean Google will take out the links in question. So how does Google handle such requests?

If someone wants links relevant to them taken down, they can't simply be given the benefit of doubt. The host of the content has much to lose, so a lot of thinking needs to go into whether or not a certain request should be entertained.

What is this all about?

The internet is a blessing for many, but it can also be a curse for some. Not all publicity is good publicity, and there might be certain groups of people who'd rather that others don't look them up on the internet. A celebrity who behaved badly, or a business with bad reviews. Even someone convicted of robbery, or maybe just someone who wants to keep their identity to themselves.

For such people, a new ruling was passed by a European court, allowing people to request search engines, and have them take down certain URLs connected with their identity, not physically, but in search results - with a ranking drop. Of course a whole website cannot be shut down on the mere whims of someone.

The ruling sure is not something desirable, and a lot of the top execs at Google and other search engines are worried about it. But the law is the law! According to Google's Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond;
When it comes to determining what's in the public interest, we're taking into account a number of factors. These include whether the information relates to a politician, celebrity or other public figure; if the material comes from a reputable news source, and how recent it is; whether it involves political speech; questions of professional conduct that might be relevant to consumers; the involvement of criminal convictions that are not yet "spent"; and if the information is being published by a government. But these will always be difficult and debatable judgments.
The ruling, ofcourse only is effective for Europe, so the links will only be dropped from Google in Europe. People in other countries such as US/Canada and Asia etc. will still see the same old results.

Google set off some alarms among publishers in the UK earlier this month when it notified them it would be removing several articles from search results as a result of the ruling. Obviously, as Drummond said, these decisions are not easy, and a lot of thought needs to go into them. "Only two months in, our process is still very much a work in progress. It's why we incorrectly removed links to some articles last week (they've since been reinstated)."

"The advisory council will hold consultations in Europe this fall, which we intend to stream live and record," Google noted in a statement on its website. "After the consultations the council will publish its findings, which we hope will help inform our evolving policies in this area."

What do you think about this ruling? Are you in favor of or against it? And why? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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