The balance between privacy and the freedom of information has
been a hot topic in Europe, whose citizens enjoy some of the world's
strictest data protection laws, especially after last year's
revelations about the extensive global surveillance programs run by
the United States.
Google, which processes more than 90 percent of all Web searches in
Europe, said on Thursday that it had made available a webform
through which people can submit their requests, but did not say how
soon it would remove links that meet the criteria for being taken
The move by the world's most popular search engine comes just before
a two-day meeting of heads of the 28 EU data protection agencies
from Tuesday, during which they are due to discuss the implications
of the EU ruling on May 13.
"It was about time, since European data protection laws have existed
since 1995," said Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner. "We
will now need to look into how the announced tool will work in
Google GOOGL.O said it has convened a committee of senior Google
executives and independent experts to try and craft a long-term
approach to dealing with what's expected to be a barrage of requests
from the EU's 500 million citizens.
"The court's ruling requires Google to make difficult judgements
about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right
to know," a Google spokesman said.
THOUSANDS OF REMOVAL REQUESTS
The decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ)
places Google in a tricky position as it strives to interpret the
EU's broad criteria for "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer
Advocates of freedom of speech have said that the ruling paved the
way for rich or powerful individuals and criminals to remove
information about them, a claim that is dismissed by privacy
activists since the ECJ allowed Google to apply a public interest
test in deciding whether to remove the links.
"What today's Google application form does is demonstrate the
fallacy behind the frequent complaint that compliance with EU laws
is too cumbersome," said a spokesman for Europe's consumer digital
rights lobby group BEUC.
"There is a major difference between applying and being granted a
right to deletion of personal data."
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When evaluating requests, Google says it will consider whether the
results include outdated information about a person, as well as
whether there is a public interest in the information, such as in
cases of professional malpractice, criminal convictions and the
public conduct of officials.
Since the ECJ's ruling, Google has received thousands of removal
requests, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Failure to remove links that meet the EU's criteria can result in
Google has said it is disappointed with the EU ruling, and Executive
Chairman Eric Schmidt said the balance the court struck between
privacy and "the right to know" was wrong.
On Thursday, Google said it would work with data protection
authorities and others as it implements the ruling.
It is not clear when Google will begin to actually remove any links,
and the ruling does not mean that information itself must be taken
down, just the link in search results.
Yahoo Inc YHOO.O which also operates a search engine in Europe, has
previously said it is "carefully reviewing" the decision to assess
the impact for its business and its users. Microsoft, which operates
the Bing search engine, has previously declined to comment on the
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan in SAN FRANCISCO and
Shailaja Sharma in BANGALORE; Editing by Will Waterman)
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