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Begrudgingly, Google Offers a Form for People Who Want to Be Forgotten

Google may not like it, but it's complying with the EU ruling to delete search results.

Asa Mathat

Europe’s highest court on May 13 decided that its citizens could ask search engines to delete search results about themselves. Now Europe’s largest search engine, Google — which has been entirely displeased with the ruling — has set up a way for people to make such requests.

Google’s “right to be forgotten” form is here.

Removing a link in Google’s search results, it should be noted, does not actually remove the page from the Internet. The search giant is worried that the ability to do so could be abused, for instance, by people who did not like the way they were portrayed in news stories.

Google asks people to explain why a URL contains information that is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate.” It also asks for “a clear, readable copy of your valid driver’s license, national ID card, or other photo ID” to verify that impersonators aren’t using the form.

If a request seems valid, Google will remove the link from search results pages and post a notice that indicates the request was made, just as it does for copyright takedown requests.

Google CEO Larry Page told the Financial Times that he regretted having not gotten more involved in the public debate in Europe around the issue. “That’s one of the things we’ve taken from this, that we’re starting the process of really going and talking to people,” he said.

Other Google executives have been less generous in their comments about the right to be forgotten. “I wish we could just forget the ruling,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin at our Code Conference this week. Previously, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt had commented, “You have a collision between a ‘right to be forgotten’ and a right to know,” he said. “From Google’s perspective, that’s a balance. Google believes, looking at the decision, which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.”

Google said it was establishing an international committee to evaluate larger questions around requests to “be forgotten,” which will only be accepted when they are submitted by Europeans. Outside members include Frank La Rue, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Peggy Valcke, Director, University of Leuven law school; Jose Luis Piñar, former Spanish DPA; Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia; and Luciano Floridi, information ethics philosopher at Oxford Internet Institute.

Even without a form, Google has already received thousands of requests to remove results over the past few weeks, said a company spokesperson.

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