Google: Right to be Forgotten is a complex issue, with no easy answers

Google is working towards an acceptable Right to be Forgotten response

Google is still coming to terms with the European Court of Justice’s Right to be Forgotten ruling. In an article in the Guardian newspaper, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said tackling the ruling is “complex” and has “no easy answers”.

“Search engines across Europe face a new challenge – one we’ve had just two months to get our heads around. That challenge is figuring out what information we must deliberately omit from our results, following a ruling from the European Union’s Court of Justice,” he said.

“The European Court found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive’. In deciding what to remove search engines must also have regard to the public interest. These are, of course, very vague and subjective tests.”

Google has issues with the decision and Drummond said that the firm “disagrees” with the ruling, but must respect it. He said that the firm has already tackled a number of requests and created a team of people to deal with them.

“It’s a huge task, as we’ve had over 70,000 takedown requests covering 250,000 webpages since May. So we now have a team of people reviewing each application individually, in most cases with limited information and almost no context,” he added.

“We’re also doing our best to be transparent about removals: for instance, we’re informing websites when one of their pages has been removed. But we cannot be specific about why we have removed the information, because that could violate an individual’s privacy rights under the court’s decision.”

Drummond said the Google response, which has its critics, is a work in progress and something that the firm will continue to work on. He added that Google has set up an advisory council made of of external experts to help it tackle the situation and formalise a response.

“The issues at stake here are important and difficult, but we’re committed to complying with the court’s decision,” he added.

“It’s a complex issue, with no easy answers. So a robust debate is both welcome and necessary as, on this issue at least, no search engine has an instant or perfect answer.”

Earlier this week the UK justice minister said he hopes to have any mention of the Right to be Forgotten removed from new proposals for the Data Protection Directive being debated in Europe.

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