Google has revealed a new process for takedown requests in relation to the recent controversial "right to be forgotten" ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The ruling says that Google and other search engines must take requests from people for search results to be deleted. The search engines will consider them on a case-by-case basis, so there's nothing automatic here, but if Google or another search engine declines to comply with a request, the person doing the requesting should be able to take them to court, where a judge will decide what action is to be taken.
Do you think this is the right direction for search engines to be moving in? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Google has a new request form up here. The company will reportedly only remove results from EU versions of its search engine, and when it does so, it will disclose right in the search results that it has. In other words, people doing the searching will still see that you had Google remove results about yourself.
You're required to select the country whose law applies to your request. These countries include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. A few of these are outside of the EU.
Above the request form, Google offers the following statement:
A recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union found that 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. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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.
If you have a removal request, please fill out the form below. Please note that this form is an initial effort. We look forward to working closely with data protection authorities and others over the coming months as we refine our approach.
The company notes that it is still working on finalizing its implementation of the removal process.
Requesting a removal requires a copy of a valid form of photo ID. This, according to Google, is to prevent fraudulent removal request from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information. You shouldn't have to worry about a new way for competitors to launch negative SEO attacks against you.
It lists spouses and attorneys as examples of people who can fill out the form other than the person who is the subject of the request. You're then asked to provide the URL for each link appearing in a Google search for your name that you want removed, as well as an explanation (if not clear) why the linked page is about you, and an explanation about how the URL in search results is "irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate."
Upon completing a request, Google sends an email that says, "We have received your legal request. We are currently building our system for removing links from our search results according to EU data protection law. In the meantime, your message is in our queue. Once we have our system up and running, we’ll process your request as quickly as our workload permits."
Danny Sullivan reports, "A trusted source familiar with Google’s plans tells Search Engine Land that in the near future, those requests be reviewed by people who are part of Google’s removal team. The timeframe isn’t set. Removals could happen in a matter of days, though they might not start for weeks."
He reports that when requests are rejected, individuals will be notified and told they can appeal to their country's data protection agency.
Google is not happy about having to do all of this. After the ruling, a spokesperson called it "disappointing...for search engines and online publishers in general."
The ruling opens the doors for people who shouldn't have search results removed to try and have them removed. While Google can reject a request, who knows how many court battles this will lead to? As soon as the ruling came out, Google got requests from a convicted pedophile, a doctor with a negative review, and a politician how had allegedly engaged in some questionable behavior while in office, among thousands of others.
Even before Google released this new request process, just since the ruling, 31 percent of its requests have were related to fraud and scams, 20 percent related to arrests or convictions for violent or otherwise serious crimes, 12 percent were related to child pornography arrests, 5% were from government and police, 2 percent from celebrities, and 30% "other".
These people will apparently have to make their requests again using the new process.
Comedian John Oliver had a pretty good take on the ruling after it was made (I encourage you to watch the whole clip from his new HBO show). He said, “Okay, a failsafe question to ask yourself when drafting a law is, ‘Might child pornographers like this?’ If so, maybe take another pass at it.”
Google considers takedowns to be a form of censorship, and is unlikely to comply with any requests that don't really have a legitimate reason behind them. It's going to have to be more than "I don't like this." Google will get many, many requests, and it will no doubt be quite burdensome for the company. Furthermore, the ruling could set a precedent to be followed by other parts of the world in time, which could make things all the more complicated.
Do you think the new content removal request tool is going to be a legitimate solution to a complicated problem? Let us know what you think.
Image via Google