European citizens can ask search engines including Google to “forget” links to certain stories about them, a local court recently decided, and Google is taking the first steps towards offering this feature to users. Google has published a complex tool that should help users get links to sensitive content removed from Google’s listings, although the feature is only available in Europe right now.
The system will not allow anyone to simply remove links pointing to information about themselves. And it’s worth noting Google will not actually take down the content, but simply prevent certain search results based on one’s identity to appear on its pages, assuming “forget” requests are successful.
Instead, Google will analyze each case before removing links, and users will have to fill in a complex online form that asks for identifying documents when pointing to the Google Search links they want to have removed from its index.
Google has clearly noted on the form that according to the ruling, “certain users can ask search engines to remove results for queries that include their name where those results are ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.’”
“In implementing this 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 says. “When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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.”
Furthermore, Google notes that this is just an early effort and it’s looking forward to working with data protection authorities and others in the future to refine the approach.