If you recall, the Court of Justice of the European Union has granted Europeans the “right to be forgotten”. On May 13, in a case against Google the court ruled that “even initially lawful processing of accurate data may, in the course of time, become incompatible with the directive where those data are no longer necessary in the light of the purposes for which they were collected or processed. That is so in particular where they appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to those purposes and in the light of the time that has elapsed.
The court ruling resulted from the claim filed by a Spanish citizen Mario Costeja González. He wanted to delete an auction notice of his repossessed home dating back from 1998 on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia. He argued that the matter had been resolved and should no longer be linked to him if someone searched his name through Google. Thus the search engine had to delete the two links to the newspaper. Gonzalez argued that information which adversely impacted “honor, dignity and exposed private lives” should not be made reality available. The court agreed, to an extent, saying that everyone has the ‘right to be forgotten’ after a certain time.
So, two weeks later, European citizens can contact Google if they want to have links to such information on them deleted, and the company will have to oblige. The webpage containing the form to remove certain links, reads: “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. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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.” By the way, the form also requires users to provide their ID to prove their identity – what I’m not sure of is whether requests originating from non-EU citizens will processed or not – most likely not, honestly. In any case, it’s worth a shot.
At least, that’s what 12,000 people thought so far. These requests were submitted last Friday, after the aforementioned web form was set up to allow users to request the removal of results about them from internet searches. Google spokesperson voiced the numbers in Germany on Saturday, although they did not provide any figures on how many requests have been satisfied. On the other hand, statements made on the page with the removal request form and other statements suggest that it takes time to process one. Just how much time is the real question here. Twelve thousand requests in one day is quite a number – I wonder how big of a team Google has – and how much money the company has to spend now to satisfy new regulations.
One thing is certain – this is one battle in a long war waged by Europeans for their rights to privacy – whether more will follow, time will tell.