If there’s something online you don’t want people to see, you can now ask Google to pretend the offending item doesn’t exist.
The search giant has created an online form through which you can ask for links to personal data or posts about you to be removed from its search results. The new form is in response to a European Commission ruling earlier this month that people must have the “right to be forgotten” online.
The EC ruled that you can ask for Google to stop linking to anything that’s “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
The landmark privacy decision by the European Union Court of Justice arose from a number of cases brought by the Spanish data protection authority in 2011, such as one involving auction notices for a house that had been repossessed, which the former owner felt infringed his privacy. The ruling applies across the EU, even to US-based companies such as Google and Facebook.
When you submit the links you want removed, Google says it 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.”
A committee of experts will make the judgements, with members including Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford. In a statement provided to CNET by Google, Floridi called the move “an exciting initiative, which will probably require some hard and rather philosophical thinking.”
To stop wrong ‘uns attempting to whitewash their past, Google pledges to consider “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.”
To ask for links to be removed, you have to supply the URL and explain how the links in question relate to you. To finalise a request, you must provide your name, contact email address, and a scan of some photo ID.
The form also allows you to make a request on behalf of someone else, allowing spouses, lawyers and other associates to ask for links about someone else to be removed.
If Google approves your request and removes the links in question, they’ll disappear from results in Google sites across the EU. But in a statement to CNET, Google’s lawyers argue that applying the EU ruling to US publications in Google’s US search results would be “absurd.”