Google hits reverse on "right to be forgotten" removals

Steven Loeb · July 5, 2014 · Short URL:

Google restores links after being called out by the Guardian newspaper, and accused of censorship

Even though an ordered that Google to give people the "right to be forgotten," that does not mean that the process is going to be entirely smooth or glitch free. In fact, it’s probably going to be very difficult for Google going forward to know which stories to take down and which to leave up. And the company is going to get a lot of heat when it makes a mistake.

Case in point: the company this week reversed a decision to block a number of articles from the British newspaper The Guardian, which were taken down in compliance with the "right to be forgotten ruling," according to a report from Reuters.

The decision came after Guardian revealed earlier this week that at least six stories had been removed from Google search results, without any explanation. The really strange thing about the incident is the content in the stories themselves that were removed.

Google blocked a number of stories regarding a Scottish soccer referee named Dougie McDonald resigned after lying about his reasons for granting a penalty in a Celtic v Dundee United match, the backlash to which prompted his resignation.

The other stories included one about French office workers making art out of post-its, one about a solicitor who was accused of fraud and another was simply an index of stories by one of the newspaper's commentators. 

To the Guardian, the fact that these stories were removed in the first place is tantamount to censorship.

"When you Google someone from within the EU, you no longer see what the search giant thinks is the most important and relevant information about an individual. You see the most important information the target of your search is not trying to hide," the newspaper wrote.

While the paper does concede that there are some stories that should be removed, such as a hypothetical one about a teenager who committed a crime, but is now a respectable citizen, and may have their job prospects hurt by such a story getting out. But whether or not that story can be seen by others should not be determined by Google, they saud.

"If at the age of 30 they're finding that their search history is still preventing them getting a job, couldn't they make the case that it's time for their record to be forgotten? Perhaps – it's a matter of debate. But such editorial calls surely belong with publishers, not Google," the Guardian wrote.

This is surely going to be something is only going to become a bigger and bigger problem for Google. After a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union which user did have the right to ask Google to remove their name from certain search results, Google put up a webform allowing people to request to have their data removed in Europe.

Over 12,000 people made such a request in the first day alone. Now, more than 70,000 have made similar requests. 

Of course, Google says it won't just delete any data that somebody asks to be removed. Here is what the company writes on the webform:

"The Court observes in this regard that, whilst it is true that the data subject’s rights also override, as a general rule, that interest of internet users, this balance may however depend, in specific cases, on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity for the data subject’s private life and on the interest of the public in having that information, an interest which may vary, in particular, according to the role played by the data subject in public life."

In other words, you have to prove that the information in question is either wrong or irrelevant. Just because you don't want something on the Internet doesn't mean that its going to come down any time soon.

But Google is no doubt going to have a fight on its hands from those publications that wrote those articles in the first place.

VatorNews has contacted Google to confirm that the articles were reinstated in search results. We will update if we learn more.

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