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This is how Google is dealing with 'right to be forgotten' requests

Loek Essers | Nov. 20, 2014
We will hear next week what the EU data protection authorities think of Google's methods.

However, the links weren't removed from the main.com domain, which was criticized by Joe McNamee, executive director of European digital rights group EDRi who took part in the panel discussion. It is inconsistent that Google removed links to photos of scantily clad women on those 32 domains and not on the .com domain, he said.

Fleischer said that Google decided not to remove the links worldwide because it is quite clear to the company that other courts in other parts of the world would never have reached the same result as the CJEU. This will probably be an area of some discussion and disagreement, and perhaps even some further judicial review over time, he added.

Another point of critique was aimed at Google's practice of telling a site's webmaster that a link to their site was removed from the search results, without telling them why. This has already led to speculation about the person who requested the removal, resulting in people and media wrongly guessing who filed the request.

As the court's verdict was silent on the rights of the webmaster, sending such a notice is also a Google decision, Fleischer said. Because removing a link could result in less traffic for a site, the company felt obliged to alert the owner. "Remember, it is not about defamation. We are talking about valid and legal content here, that is indisputable," Fleischer said.

Google is planning to continue to delist search results in the same way in the future. While the company has struggled with the aftermath of the ruling, Fleischer said that such cases ultimately serve to strengthen human rights, so from that perspective, he welcomes future court cases. "In the end, that is good for privacy," he said.

Whether Google's methods please the EU's data protection authorities remains to be seen, though. The Article 29 Working Party (WP29), the group representing the authorities, is planning to provide common guidelines for dealing with right-to-be-forgotten requests after next week's plenary session, said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chairwoman of the French data protection authority CNIL and the WP29, during the conference. The group wants to guarantee that every person in Europe has the same protection.

The focus shouldn't be on what the ruling means to Google, but on the people making the requests. "It means that people want to control their digital life," she said. "We have to listen to that."

 

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