Google considers search engine results alert after court ruling.

Internet search engine giant Google is reported to be considering introducing a facility whereby an alert appears at the bottom of a search results page on which links have been removed.

 

This follows a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice on May 13, 2014 that, under existing European Union data protection legislation, European citizens are entitled to have any material concerning them which is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” removed from web search results. The judgement also said that by operating internet search facilities, Google was acting as a data controller in territories where it had a presence.

 

The Court’s decision has become known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling. The idea of people searching for their own name is well established, but it was not until last month that people had any rights to ask for information about them to be removed.

 

The case was brought by a Spanish citizen who was seeking to have details about the re-possession of his home in 1998 removed from the records. He had already applied unsuccessfully to the Spanish data protection authority regarding this matter.

 

On June 2, 2014, Google revealed that it had received some 41,000 requests to remove links as a result of the judgment. Many of these requests are from individuals with criminal records, e.g. persons convicted of fraud, paedophilia and child pornography, or those with links to various scandals. The ruling does not oblige Google to accept every request, but the company must consider whether removing the material is in the public interest. Requests are considered by a seven person advisory committee that includes Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt and Jimmy Wales, founder of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

 

It should be noted that only the link to the information is removed if a request is accepted, not the actual web content itself.

 

An online form is now available for those who wish to request that their details are removed. Essentially completing this short form involves stating the web addresses for which the person wants information to be concealed, and then explaining the reasons why this action should be taken.

Google has declined to comment on the latest reports. At the time of the original ruling, the Californian internet giant described it as a “disappointing ruling” and professed to be “very surprised” by the outcome. Mr Wales has offered his support, saying he believes the Court’s decision amounts to “censorship.”

 

Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship, an organisation that campaigns for the right to freedom of expression offered an independent comment on the proposal.

            

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