EU Ruling forces Google to Allow Scrubbing Search Results

In the Internet age, it can be harder to leave your past behind than ever before, but that might have become just a bit easier this past week. Following a ruling by a European Commission earlier this month, Google now has a form that lets users submit a request to remove links to personal data to be removed from searches.

The ruling declared that there is an intrinsic "right to be forgotten" online and that Google should respond to inquiries to stop linking to anything that's "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed."

The decision came as a response to a privacy decision by the European Union Court of Justice regarding a number of cases brought by the Spanish data protection authority in 2011. One such case involved an individual who felt an auction listing for his repossessed house violated his privacy.

Google responded by issuing a form that users can fill out and submit links that they want to be removed. At that point, Google will "assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information."

The submissions will be overseen by a committee of experts including independent experts from outside of Google. To prevent the unscrupulous from scrubbing their digital track, Google has promised to weigh "whether there's a public interest in the information – for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions or public conduct of government officials."

Unfortunately, removal of links requires quite a bit of information to be provided. In addition to the URL and an explanation of why the link should be removed, a name, email address and a photo ID must also be provided. If Google approves the request, the results will be removed from all of Google's EU sites, though the removal will not apply to search results outside of the EU.

Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • dark_knight33
    The 'public' does not intrinsically have a right to 'know' anything. People got by for hundreds of years trusting one another before google and facebook. Now, after every damned job interview, you've got hiring managers using Google and trying to dig into your personal life, because some blurb you posted 5 years ago about a politician is completely relevant to your job performance, and worth not hiring you over.

    FWIW, no this hasn't happened to me, but I'm sure it has to many others. This attitude of Google's is completely self interested. Google isn't interested in the public's right to know, it's Google's right to know, so they can sell ads alongside your private informaiton when someone looks you up. In the end, it's always about money. Fuck Google, use instead. It's like Google, but without the creepy.
  • Urzu1000
    @dark_knight33, I must say, I disagree with you. While I'm not a fan of Google trying to shove it's browser down my throat, at the very least, it makes a damn effective search engine. And yes, they are a business, so they're focused on profits, as they should be. A company focused on profit will offer services and products that people want the most, and will have the funds to invest in research and development for future products which will keep things interesting. You are capable of hiding your personal information online. It's not Google's responsibility to baby-sit you and hide your five year old comment about some politician that you stuck your real name on.