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What You Need to Know About Google's 'Right to Be Forgotten'

Here's what you need to know if you want Google to 'forget' certain search results for your legal name.
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Have you ever searched your name in Google and found results that you want to remove?

If so, there's no better time to move to Europe. European Union (EU) courts just passed a landmark ruling requiring Google to honor the so-called "Right to Be Forgotten" for people that want to distance themselves from negative search results connected to their names.

The "Right to Be Forgotten" feature is the result of a court ruling in the EU in mid-May, which has allowed anyone to ask for anything to be removed from Google. When Google released its new Right to Be Forgotten form on May 30th, it received more than 12,000 submissions in the first day, with up to twenty requests per minute. Google later confirmed these figures with Search Engine Land.

According to Marketing Land, several thousand requests were made even before the form was released publicly. Germans made the most early requests, generating 40 percent of last month's requests. Spain, the UK, Italy and France followed, yet no country outside of Germany peaked above 15 percent of the total.

Is the right to be removed guaranteed?

In short, the answer is "no." While the "right" only allows that anyone can ask that anything be removed, it doesn't guarantee removal in the least. No formal mechanisms have been established, in the tradition of DMCA requests, which are more conventional copyright infringement removal requests that have been honored in the past.

As it stands, it is unclear whether the "Right to Be Forgotten" applies only to names or to generic searches. Interestingly, this had controversial repercussions, including various requests to remove criminal history.

How to appeal a denial

While the search engine makes the final decision on the "right" initially, the official EU court ruling leaves room for appeals to "supervisory authority or the judicial authority." If a search engine rejects a request, a person can turn to a privacy regulator or the courts of a member country of the EU to appeal; however there government appeal is not guaranteed. In fact, the court ruling ensures protection of the "preponderant interest of the general public in having, on account of its inclusion in the list of results, access to the information in question."

These "rights" only exist in the European Union

It is important to note that the removals only apply to EU versions of Google. The form requires the person to select one of the 28 EU countries, but it also provides support for Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Furthermore, the results will only be removed for EU versions of Google search--so someone searching in the USA will receive an unedited version of Google search results.

How to fill out the form

Either an individual or their representation may fill out the form here, which also requires photo ID of the main requester in order to ensure primary approval. A requester can only go by one name to base the results that they would wish to have removed, and those who have gone by nicknames or aliases cannot resubmit a request for reasons of name variation.

Complete requests that reasonably explain why results are irrelevant, outdated or inappropriate have the best chances of getting removed in a matter of days, or weeks.

Google is fighting this ruling, since it is interpreting this as another form of censorship. It will be interesting to see how this ruling affects other countries choices on the subject of controlling PR for someone's legal name.

 

Last updated: Jun 12, 2014




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