EU’s Right To Be Forgotten Ruling Is A Nightmare For Google

The EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling that grants people the ability to remove their names from Google’s search listings is turning into a nightmare for the search engine giant.

right to be forgotten

Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock

A few days ago, the Guardian informed its readers that it received notifications that six of its articles would be delinked from Google search results for Internet users in Europe.

The ruling will scrub listings obtained in 28 EU countries, along with four non-EU members: Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It does not affect Internet users in the rest of the world.

The three requests pertained to Dougie McDonald, a retired Scottish Premier League referee who was found to have lied about his decisions for calling a penalty in a Celtic vs. Dundee game back in 2010.

The newspaper published screenshots of the results found from the US search results compared to results from the UK, with American Googlers able to access negative stories about McDonald, while UK users could not.

James Ball, who reported the removal, criticized Google’s actions in a statement:

“These [articles] should not be allowed to disappear: to do so is a huge, if indirect, challenge to press freedom. The ruling has created a stopwatch on free expression – our journalism can be found only until someone asks for it to be hidden.”

These posts and similar ones are widely indexed by news organizations and other websites around the world, making it look as if Google is blindly agreeing to all scrubbing requests without taking into account the freedom of press or public interest. One of the more controversial delistings pertained to Stan O’Neal, a banker at Merril Lynch.

Also, the removal of these articles has even been considered something of a breach of EU and UK laws. Serene Tierney from Bircham Dyson Bell, a law firm, spoke to the Register:

“When Google receives a request to de-link, it must consider whether any damage to the person making the request is outweighed by a relevant public interest in keeping the link. In the case of Stan O’Neal, it’s a no-brainer, there’s a clear public interest in that information remaining available.

In some ways, Google is just following orders, and adhering to the ruling to review requests and remove information where it is excessive, inaccurate, irrelevant or inadequate. BBC’s Robert Peston says the removal of one of his posts could be clumsiness on Google’s part in an effort to comply with the ruling.

“It is only a few days since the ruling has been implemented—and Google tells me that since then it has received a staggering 50,000 requests for articles to be removed from European searches.”

The removal of one article may be fallacy, but the study reports that removing links – especially those to quality websites and journalists written in a free spirit of public interests – could start to erode trust in the reliability of Google search listings, which Google has labeled as compelling, complete and unbiased since the beginning – just like good journalism.

What are your thoughts on the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling? Is Google doing the right thing? Does it have a choice? Feel free to leave comments.