What is the EU Right To Be Forgotten?

What is the right to be forgotten?

At the end of November 2014, it was revealed that rival search engines Bing and Yahoo would also be abiding by the ruling, with Microsoft stating that it was “still refining” the process, while Yahoo said it was working on balancing the right to individual privacy with the public’s right to information.

New guidelines dictating that links be removed from all domains were also agreed to by EU privacy regulators.

Google has said the ruling should not extend beyond Europe, claiming that it is a “European concept” and should be limited.

“We’ve had a basic approach, we’ve followed it, on this questions we’ve made removals Europe-wide but not beyond,” Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, said at an event in Brussels.

“We’ll take [the report], along with the Article 29 input and other input and arrive at an approach… It’s our strong view that there needs to be some way of limiting the concept, because it is a European concept.”

Below, we run through everything you need to know about Google’s “right to be forgotten” and what the reaction to it has been like so far…

What will be removed?

The information must be deemed “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate,” and be accompanied by a digital copy of the user’s official identification. Failure to remove links that align with the EU court ruling’s definition will result in fines.

The BBC’s Robert Peston recently questioned his own seven-year-old blog post about chief executive Stanley O’Neal leaving investment bank Merrill Lynch being removed from searches in Europe under the ruling. He said of the “off” move.

“Maybe I am a victim of teething problems. It is only a few days since the ruling has been implemented – and Google tells me that since then it has received a staggering 50,000 requests for articles to be removed from European searches.”

Since airing his worries about being “cast into oblivion”, Google’s director of communications for Europe, Peter Barron, responded to Peston’s complaints, calling the company’s approach to the new ruling a “learning process” though admitted the process could be made clearer.

Google previously said via its webform: “In implementing this decision, we 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.”

Google recently removed links to several Telegraph articles. One was about a newspaper sales director terrorising a couple before a football game, while two other links, published in 2001 and 2008 respectively, were also removed.

Subsequently, a link to a 2007 Telegraph story regarding a three-year ASBO given to a teenage accused of being responsible for almost 40 per cent of the crime in his town – amounting to more than 120 offences – was also removed.

Wikipedia was also hit with a request for removal of a link from search results, with the founder of the popular online encyclopaedia Jimmy Wales, who is also part of the 10-person advisory task force set up to help Google comply with the ruling, objecting to the move saying: “It’s completely insane and needs to be fixed.

“In the case of truthful, non-defamatory information obtained legally, I think there is no possibility of any defensible ‘right’ to censor what other people are saying. You do not have the right to use the law to prevent Wikipedia editors from writing truthful information, nor do you have a right to use the law to prevent Google from publishing truthful information.”

What’s the reaction to the ruling been like?

Since Google started removing content from its search results, the company has faced opposition from the BBC (as mentioned above) and others.

The UK government has also voiced its disapproval at the directive, and has demanded the EU drop the right to be forgotten law from the EU’s data protection legislation.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes told the House of Lords: “The government is currently negotiating with our 27 partners to get a new law, which is the new directive and we, the UK, would not want what is currently in the draft, which is the right to be forgotten, to remain. We want it to be removed, we think it is the wrong position.”

More recently, the ruling was described by the House of Lords Home Affairs EU Sub-Committee as “vague, ambiguous and unhelpful,” with chair of the committee, Baroness Prashar, saying: “We believe that it is wrong in principle to leave search engines themselves the task of deciding whether to delete information or not, based on vague, ambiguous and unhelpful criteria, and we heard from witnesses how uncomfortable they are with the idea of a commercial company sitting in judgement on issues like that.”

To rectify the problem, Prashar recommended that search engines not be considered data controllers, removing ‘ownership’ of the information in question.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has also complained about the new rules, after emerging as one of the first publications to have links to its articles removed.

The newspaper initially had six links removed, although four were later reinstated.

David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, has since admitted (in a comment piece for the paper) that it was wrong to pull some of the links it did.

“Only two months in, our process is still very much a work in progress. It’s why we incorrectly removed links to an article last week (since been reinstated),” he wrote.

“But the good news is that the ongoing, active, debate that’s happening will inform the development of our principles, policies and practices, in particular about how to balance one person’s right to privacy with another’s right to know.”

Commenting on the recent removal of certain links to Telegraph stories, Paul Gershlick, partner in the intellectual property team at law firm Matthew, Arnold and Baldwin, said: “My own view is that this is putting search engines in a very awkward position.

“The law is definitely not certain anymore, and it could stifle free speech. If you’re Google why would you risk a legal claim? You’d remove the link: that’s the simple option.”

In response to the removal of certain links, the website Hidden from Google has been set up to keep a record of search results that have been taken down. The list currently has 15 verified examples, with the site somewhat ironically replacing the original pages for relevant search terms in many cases.

Afaq Tariq, the US developer behind the site, said of his decision to create the curated list of links removed from EU search results: “There is an information gap there and, where you can verify examples, you can curate a list.”

Who is regulating the EU Right To Be Forgotten?

How Google handles complaints and requests to remove information from its search results will be looked over by a taskforce of European privacy watchdogs, referred to as Article 29.

The group met in Brussels on 3 June and decided a taskforce would be put in place to examine Google’s process under the new ruling.

Following the flood of requests received by Google, Professor Luciano Floridi, the person tasked with determining how Google can comply with the recent EU court ruling, said: “People would be screaming if a powerful company suddenly decided what information could be seen by what people, when and where,” he said.

“That is the consequence of this decision. A private company now has to decide what is in the public interest.”

Google, currently responsible for almost 90 per cent of web searches in Europe, now faces the unenviable task of balancing its duty to comply with its users’ “right to be forgotten” and preserving its reputation as the go-to source for online information and content.

Peter Barron, Google’s director of communications for Europe, said: “The European court of justice ruling was not something that we wanted, but it is now the law in Europe, and we are obliged to comply with that law. We are aiming to deal with it as responsibly as possible… It’s a very big process, it’s a learning process, we are listening to the feedback and we are working our way through that.”

Google has had over 90,000 removal requests about more than 328,000 URLs worldwide, though the search engine has so far refused to disclose information that could identify the complainants.

All applications must verify that the links in question relate specifically to the applicant, unless the applicant has the legal authority to act on the claimant’s behalf, in which case this must be proven.

Is it about privacy or censorship?

The somewhat controversial request form launched by Google after the ruling received 12,000 entries from across Europe within 24 hours – at one point receiving up to 20 requests a minute. This grew to 41,000 requests in the first four days.

Feeding into fears about the potential consequences of this ruling, almost a third of the requests were related to accusations of fraud, while a further 12 per cent were attached to child pornography arrests and 20 per cent for other serious or violent crimes.

Of these first 12,000 entries, around 1,500 were said to be people residing in the UK, with an ex-politician, a paedophile and a GP among them.

By December, the number of requests received by Google has grown to around 175,000 from all 28 EU countries, with 65,000 of the links coming from the UK.

Before the form was made available, most removal requests to Google were coming from Germany and Spain, with the UK, Italy and France making up the rest of the top five.

There are concerns from many that the ability for users to request information be removed from search results could result in the system being abused for nefarious purposes.

However, lawyers have assured those worried that politicians, celebrities and criminals will probably not benefit from the ruling as Google will have the right to reject applications that request removal of information deemed in the public interest.

It should also be noted that, while links to the objectionable information will be removed, the information will not actually be deleted from the web.

Following on from comments regarding the ruling, Baroness Prashar, chair of the Lords Home Affairs EU Sub-Committee, said: “[We] do not believe that individuals should have the right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said.”


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EU Right To Be Forgotten limited to Europe

A Google-appointed council argues that EU directive should be limited to Europe

A Google-appointed panel has concluded there is no need to implement the European Union’s (EU) right to be forgotten ruling outside of Europe.

The directive allows EU citizens to request the removal of search result links relating to them which are deemed to be “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”.

But Google’s advisory council released a 44-page report last week recommending that Google should limit the scope of the directive purely to European-based search services.

The mix of academics, lawyers and freedom of speech advocates like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales backed Google’s own view on the issue.

The report stated: “There is a competing interest on the part of users outside of Europe to access information via a name-based search in accordance with the laws of their country, which may be in conflict with the delistings [sic] afforded by the ruling.”

It added: “We believe that delistings [sic] applied to the European versions of search will, as a general rule, protect the rights of the data subject adequately in the current state of affairs and technology.”

It further noted that 95 per cent of European search engine users access local versions of Google’s search engine, according to the tech giant.

The conclusion contradicts EU privacy regulators’ guidelines, issued last year, outlining that links should be removed from all domains of a search engine.

An EU spokesperson said at the time: “Limiting de-listing to EU domains on the ground that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights [of people].”

However, there were disagreements within the council, with Wikipedia’s Wales and former German federal justice minister, Sabine Leuthesser-Schnarrenberger, summing up the opposing points of view.

Wales blasted the right to be forgotten in the report, calling it “confused and self-contradictory”, adding that a private company cannot be allowed to make decisions on what information is publically available.

Leuthesser-Schnarrenberger argued that search engines were the “the responsible body” to decide on such matters, adding that the directive should extend to non-EU search domains.

She said: “This is the only way to implement the court’s ruling, which implies a complete and effective protection of data subject’s [sic] rights.”


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Can I remove negative articles about me?

It is important to note, that currently, requests made by private persons under the EU ruling for information removal are just implemented by Google on European sub domains, such as Google.co.uk or Google.fr but not on Google.com. That’s not about to change, according to Eric Schmidt unless Google is compelled to escalate de-indexing to .com by the ECJ in the future.

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Musician attempts to use EU Right To Be Forgotten to hide a bad review

Musician Dejan Lazic has cited the Right To Be Forgotten as a reason why a negative review about his performance should be erased from Google searches.

The Croatian pianist requested that  a piece written about him in the Washingon Post should be removed  as it was “simply irrelevant for the arts”. The review also described Lazic’s playing as “cartoon-like”, to which he felt this was “defamatory, mean-spirited, optionated, offensive”.

This is the first of its kind that the publication has received, and raises more questions about the use of the law within the EU, and how each case will be dealt with.

When searching for Dejan Lazic the negative review appears on the first page of Google. Lazic then requested that the news paper remove the article on the basis that the EU “right to be fortotten” allowed for it’s removal. However the law is based on removing outdated or irrelevant information, and is target towards Google’s display of search results, rather than removal from the website in question.

After receiving this request, the Washington Post proceeded to write an article about this, which drew more attention to the original review.

For his part, Lazic believes that he has a right to control his own image, and that reviewer Anna Midgette is holding a grudge against certain acts who are singled out for harsh judgment. In his view Midgette mischaracterized his 2010 performance at the Kennedy Center and slandered him as a performer, out of ignorance or malice.

“I tried to make it very clear in my review that I thought this was a pianist of significant ability, and for that I thought he could do better than he did,” Midgette said.

Since the E.U. enshrined it in May, the basic premise of the ruling is this:

Individuals have the right to their personal information, and should have some control over their personal search results. If a search for your name on Google or Bing turns up “inadequate, irrelevant or … excessive” links, the court ruled, you should be able to ask the search engine to remove them.

The far reaching consequences of the ruling continue to be felt.

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Online Reputation Management

If you are looking to get information hidden from Google via the Right To Be Forgotten you may wish you speak to a reputation management company.


Google will not remove information if it is to do with criminal activity, business reviews, anything illegal. It is only for people who have become victims online. So please bear this in mind. For complete protection you need an online reputation management company


You can get a free quote here on helping you repair your online credibility and fix google search results.

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How will Right To be forgotten work?

1. How will Google and other search engines determine what’s “relevant”? Someone applying for a job might feel that a link to a past nightclub altercation isn’t relevant and should be deleted. The prospective employer might feel it’s very relevant (especially if the employer is another nightclub). In Germany, a former SS commando named Henrich Boere who was a Nazi hit man during World War II tried to invoke the right to be forgotten in bringing charges against reporters who secretly videotaped his confession. A judge acquitted the reporters. But the question remains: Whose standard of relevancy applies?

2. What does it mean for personal information to be “inadequate”? If a news story mentions a drunk-driving arrest but fails to note that the driver was Phi Beta Kappa, is that inadequate? No single link can be expected to portray a person in all of his or her complexity. If that’s what adequacy means, it’s an impossibly high standard that could lead to wholesale destruction of the system of links that make up the Internet. The decision “allows individuals to complain to search engines about information they do not like with no legal oversight,” Index on Censorship, an advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books.”

3. If passage of time is important, as indicated by the “no longer relevant” standard, then how much time must pass? Is it two months for a mildly embarrassing gaffe at a holiday party but five years for a bankruptcy filing? Statutes of limitations have grown out of common law, developing over centuries in tandem with changing societal norms. The European Court of Justice is essentially ordering Google and others to create a parallel statute of limitations for Internet links with no history or principles to go by.

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Will Google Delete my Personal Search Results

Can you get your personal information removed from google?

The ruling seems to give search engines more leeway to dismiss take-down requests for links to webpages about public figures, in which the information is deemed to be of public interest. But search engines may err on the side of caution and remove more links than necessary to avoid liability, said Rosen, a long-time critic of such laws. He was asked by Google to speak to reporters on Tuesday’s ruling, but has no formal relationship with the company.

Search engines will also have to authenticate requests, he noted, to ensure that the person seeking a link’s removal is actually the one he or she claims to be.

Google is the dominant search engine in Europe, commanding about 93 percent of the market, according to StatCounter global statistics. Microsoft Corp’s Bing has 2.4 percent and Yahoo Inc has 1.7 percent.

Google has some experience dealing with take-down requests in its YouTube video website, which has a process to remove uploads that infringe copyrights. Google has automated much of the process with a ContentID system that automatically scans uploaded videos for particular content that media companies have provided to YouTube.

Google may be able to create similar technology to address the EU requirements, said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

Even if Google does not automate the process, the extra cost of hiring staffers is likely to be insignificant to a company that generated roughly $60 billion in revenue last year, Gillis said. If Google were to pay staffers $15 an hour to process take-down requests, for example, the company could get a million hours of work for $15 million, he said. “It’s the cost of doing business for them.”

Google has said it is disappointed with the ruling, which it noted differed dramatically from a non-binding opinion by the ECJ’s court adviser last year. That opinion said deleting information from search results would interfere with freedom of expression.

Yahoo is “carefully reviewing” the decision to assess the impact for its business and its users, a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Since our founding almost 20 years ago, we’ve supported an open and free internet; not one shaded by censorship.”

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EU court has ruled on Google

A top EU court has ruled Google must amend some search results at the request of ordinary people in a test of the so-called “right to be forgotten”.

The European Union Court of Justice said links to “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request.

The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy.

Google said the ruling was “disappointing”.

The search engine says it does not control data, it only offers links to information freely available on the internet.

It has previously said forcing it to remove data amounts to censorship.

The EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the court’s decision in a post on Facebook, saying it was a “clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans”.

“The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the “digital stone age” into today’s modern computing world,” she said.

The European Commission proposed a law giving users the “right to be forgotten” in 2012.

It would require search engines to edit some searches to make them compliant with the European directive on the protection of personal data.

In its judgement on Tuesday, the court in Luxembourg said people had the right to request information be removed if it appeared to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.


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Deleting Personal Information Online

Deleting personal information from the internet is not black and white…  This isn’t so much the “right to be forgotten” as the “right not to be found”.

It’s no wonder the U.S. search giant is unhappy.

Whatever your position on online privacy and whether or not an individual having the right to request certain personal information be removed amounts to censorship, it’s hard not to argue it’s the originating source that should be targeted, not an “agnostic” search engine.

Making Google — and its search engine ilk — responsible for the content it indexes is a slippery slope to say the least and could have multiple ramifications around the censorship of all sorts of “data”. (Safe harbour, anyone?)

Instead, what should probably happen is that Google’s spiders simply respect information that has been removed or de-indexed by the originating source online, following a privacy offence under EU law.

That said, this does get awfully complex when you consider things like Google cache, or noble projects like Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, regardless of where you sit in the debate between right to privacy and freedom of speech.

However this eventually shakes out — the EU has been pushing hard to legislate specifically on the issue — the “right to be forgotten” is certainly going to be messy.


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EU Rules On Right To Be Forgotten on Google

Google has been told that user have Right To Be Forgotten

Google received requests to remove objectionable personal information from its search engine just hours after the European judges ruled people have the “right to be forgotten,” sources say.

The take down requests came after the European Court of Justice ruled Internet search engines must remove information deemed “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” or face a fine.

The ruling only compels Google to remove the link to the information, rather than the information itself.

The case highlights the battle between freedom of expression and privacy


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