Google has taken a first step towards complying with the recent “right to be forgotten” ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union by releasing a web form via which EU citizens can request that links to articles about them be removed from search results.
The EU ruling states that citizens are entitled to ask Google (and other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing) to remove links that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
The search giant has already received thousands of requests for the removal of personal information since the court announced its ruling earlier this month, and this form may be seen as an initial move to formalise the process.
“Please note that this form is an initial effort. We look forward to working closely with data protection authorities and others over the coming months as we refine our approach,” the company states.
Indeed, Google makes no guarantees on its web page that any action will be taken once a request has been received. Nor does it give any indication of how long the process might take.
Instead the company says it is, “Working to finalise our implementation of removal requests under European data protection law as soon as possible,” going on to say that requesters will be notified once the review process has started.
To make a request on the form an individual must submit digital ID such as a driving licence or national ID card. There is a box where the URLs the individual wants removed can be entered.
Google says that it has convened a committee of senior executives and independent experts to review the situation and recommend approaches to dealing with what are likely to be a large number of requests.
Reuters reports that this committee will be co-chaired by executive chairman Eric Schmidt and chief legal officer David Drummond, with members including Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and UN special rapporteur Frank La Rue.
Both Schmidt and Drummond have previously criticised the EU ruling, which is believed to have caught them by surprise.
Schmidt said the decision represents “a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know”, and that the court has failed evenly to balance the two objectives, while Drummond said that he believed the court ruling to be “disappointing” and that it “went too far”.
Complying with the ruling across all of the territories in the EU, each with their local data protection laws and languages will certainly be onerous for Google and it remains to be seen how it will seek to make judgments on individual cases and to what extent it will be able to automate its responses. Or indeed whether it will seek to change or water down the ruling over the coming months.
Yahoo and Microsoft have yet to provide detailed comment.