Google faces data watchdogs over 'right to be forgotten'

By Updated at 2014-07-24 20:49:44 +0000

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Google has met data regulators from across the European Union to discuss the implications of the recent "right to be forgotten" ruling.

An EU court ruled in May that links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased from searches on request, leading to censorship concerns.

The decision and Google's handling of the requests have been heavily debated.

The BBC understands that the search firm informed the watchdogs that it had now received more than 91,000 requests.

These in turn covered a total of 328,000 links that applicants wanted taken down.

The regulators were told that the greatest number of these came from France, followed by Germany, then Great Britain and Spain.

Across Europe as a whole, the search engine - which has been critical of the court's ruling - has:

* Approved more than 50% of the requests

* Asked for more information in about 15% of the cases

* Rejected more than 30% of the applications

According to a report by Reuters, EU regulators were specifically concerned about the fact that Google had notified the owners of affected websites when it removed their links.

In one case this led the Wall Street Journal to write again about a Netherlands-based investor who had been linked to a sex workshop in 1998, after he had asked for the link to be removed from Google's results.

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In another example, the BBC's economics editor Robert Peston brought attention to one of his blog posts that had disappeared from Google's search results.

Furthermore, a website has been set up to log examples of reported erasures.

Speaking to Bloomberg, the Irish data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes expressed concerns about this knock-on effect.

"The more they do so, it means the media organisation republishes the information and so much for the right to be forgotten," Mr Hawkes said.

"There is an issue there."

Reuters also reported that the watchdogs were concerned that the removed results could still be found on the international Google.com site even though they had been taken off local variants such as Google.co.uk.

Working party

The meeting in Brussels also included representatives from other search engines, including Yahoo, and Microsoft's Bing.

They met with a group known as the Article 29 Working Party, a gathering of data commissioners from across Europe concerned about the future direction of the "right to be forgotten" ruling.

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