Google has quietly launched a “right to be forgotten” tool which will allow European users to attempt to have personal details they deem outdated or just plain wrong dropped from the search company’s index. The new form comes after the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union earlier in May, which decided search engines were obliged to concede to such removal requests: however, it’s not blanket permission to have anything embarrassing deleted from the internet.
In fact, the criteria for whether something is eligible for removal is open to some interpretation, and may make the process as a whole time-consuming and confusing.
According to the European Court, links in the index – of Google and other search providers, though Google is by far the most dominant in the EU – should be removed if they are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
Google will assess each petition on those criteria, before deciding whether or not to accede to the request. Elements like financial scamming or professional malpractice – deemed to be in the public interest – will be key criteria for that 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
It’s worth noting that even a successful removal request will only have the result cut from Google’s index, not destroy the original data on whatever site it was indexed.
The form itself is relatively straightforward, requiring the contentious link(s) in question as well as an explanation of why the individual wants it removed under the above criteria, and how it is about them. In order to submit a search removal request under European Data Protection law, Google also needs confirmation on identity: only citizens of the European Union are eligible.
Google says that it is still working on the process, and so far has no timeline of when it will actually begin removing information.