In a landmark ruling from the EU court, Google has been forced to launch a service for European citizens who want to remove their name from certain search results, as long as they are, “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.
Under assessment from a dedicated team, Google will analyse queries and attempt to balance the “privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information”, the firm says in the allocated form.
While evaluating the request, Google specifies that it will decide whether there’s a “public interest in the information – for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials”.
Retaining 90% of all internet searches on the continent, Google has long been Europe’s favourite search engine. But the logistical problems it faces, including the wide variety of languages in the EU, makes interpreting the EU’s broad recognition of valid queries, while respecting individual countries laws, a serious issue. Regardless, fines will follow if Google fails to enact the legislation.
Speaking to the Financial Times, chief executive officer for Google Larry Page spoke out against the ruling, stating how it will “damage the next generation of internet start-ups and [strengthen] the hand of repressive regimes”.
The original case was brought to light by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home infringed his privacy because it appeared on Google’s search results.
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google has warned the decision will limit “the kind of innovation we’ve seen” on the internet so far, arguing against its regulation.
In a statement published online, leading digital rights campaigners Open Rights Group said, “Today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice could pose a threat to free speech online.”
Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow, Jim Killock, managing director of Open Rights Group, described the EU’s decision as “worrying”.
He added, “We believe that individual websites should retain responsibility for the removal of content, not the search engine. This raises worrying questions regarding the control of information in the public’s eye, but Google’s response has been well measured so far.”
Photo: Basel Jaber via Flickr
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