Google has agreed to change the way it implements Europe’s new “right to be forgotten” measure after being criticized for being over-zealous in its approach to blocking results in name-based searches. More than 70,000 people including some of the world biggest news sites have asked Google to delete links to articles about them after a ruling in May by the European court of justice.
The Guardian, Daily Mail and BBC complained when Google removed links to some pages when searches are made against particular names. The BBC’s economics editor, Robert Peston, said Google had cast him into oblivion after a 2007 blogpost he wrote about the former Merrill Lynch boss Stan O’Neal was excluded from some search results. Peter Barron, Google’s director of communications for Europe, said the US Company could be clearer in the way it informed publishers about search-term deletions.
The search engine has restricted access to a BBC blog posting and several British newspaper stories under a legal ruling granting people a right to be forgotten in search engines.
Google said it had received 70,000 requests since it put a form online on May 30 as a result of the ruling by the European Court of Justice. The court said that individuals have the right to have links to information about them deleted from searches in certain circumstances, such as if the data is outdated or inaccurate.
Reports in Europe late Thursday indicated that Google restored some deleted Guardian story links to search results, indicating the California-based Internet titan was refining the right to be forgotten process on the go.
European news organizations have opened fire on Google for removing links to stories from search results in the name of adhering to the court order.
Mail Online, the world’s biggest news site, said it had received notification that links to a story about the same Scottish referee, Dougie McDonald, had been removed from certain searches.
“These examples show what a nonsense the right to be forgotten is. It is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like,” said Martin Clarke, the publisher of Mail Online.
The links remain visible on Google.com, the US version of the site and the restrictions only appear to relate to certain search terms.
Google, the world’s leading search engine, said that each request “to be forgotten” would be examined individually to determine whether it met the ruling’s criteria.
A spokeswoman said, “We have recently started taking action on the removals requests we’ve received after the European Court of Justice Decision.”
“This is a new and evolving process for us. We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling,” she said.
The only difference between Google’s everyday algorithm reshuffling and European Court of Justice removals is that in the latter case decision-taking will mostly be done by humans and the public will likely be made aware of the consequences by journalists revealing when the rich and famous are trying to bury their pasts.