Have you ever Googled yourself? Don’t worry, we all have. And perhaps you may have come across one or two search results you would rather not have attached to your name on the world’s most popular search engine.
That’s also what EU regulators thought when they ruled Google must allow users to request certain search results be rendered invisible to searchers. The Court of Justice of the European Union sought to increase data protection rights in the EU, and decided that European users have “the right to be forgotten” when it comes to search engines. Though Google protested the change, it has complied with the rules and starting Friday, Europeans can begin scrubbing their online presence simply by filling out a form.
Europeans interested in removing a search result must fill out Google’s online form and provide photo identification. The relatively simple form asks for identification, which URLs a user would like removed, and reasons why. Users also must upload a valid photo ID to prevent fraud (such as people trying to harm competitors or illegally suppressing information). EU rules say that links that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed” are eligible for removal.
Google says it will consider both privacy and the public’s “right to know” as it pertains to each request.
“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,” Google says. “When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional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.”
Keep in mind, if you’re American (or from anywhere outside Europe) you’re likely out of luck. Though anyone can file a request, Google is only legally obligated to take a look at cases of European citizens.
Google’s CEO Larry Page says the ruling is a slippery slope: “It will be used by other governments that aren’t as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things,” he says to the London-based Financial Times. Politics aside, it will likely cause quite a bit more work for tech companies, in that they have to process information that ordinarily is left alone or dealt with through algorithms.
The case originally came up when a Spanish man requested an article depicting him with social security debt be taken down. He filed a complaint with Spanish data protection authorities and the EU courts took a look at the case. Originally, Google won – an EU court said people didn’t have the right, but a higher court overturned the decision last month.