Remember the Right to Be Forgotten? Google Does

Advertising Law

Google grants just under half the requests seeking to remove Internet links, according to the latest report from the company.

In 2014, the European Court of Justice recognized the “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) and ordered Google to remove links regarding a Spanish attorney. It held that the links regarding his old debts were “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” Efforts to bring the RTBF to the United States have been unsuccessful, but Google’s recent Transparency Report demonstrates that individuals continue to seek to be forgotten.

The company received 654,808 requests between May 2014 and February 2018 to remove links, and it granted less than half, or about 43 percent, of those requests. Roughly 2.4 million URLs were deleted from query results.

Approximately 1 percent of all requesters accounted for 20 percent (or 1.4 million) of the total URLs that were requested for removal, Google said. The vast majority of requests (88.7 percent) came from individuals, with 77 percent of requests coming from the same country as the top-level domain seeking to be delisted. Reasons for denying requests for removal include insufficient information (accounting for 24.7 percent of requests), requests for names not found (23.2 percent) and self-authored information (coming in at 7.7 percent).

Almost half of the links removed were from malicious sites (49.2 percent), followed by directories (19.1 percent), news sites (17.6 percent), social media (11.6 percent) and other sources (2.4 percent). The site most impacted by the RTBF: Facebook. Google received requests to remove 43,936 URLs from the site, with 18,463 granted.

The Transparency Report also provides examples of some of the requests Google has received. The wife of a deceased individual in Finland asked Google to delist a forum page that alleged the deceased had committed several sex crimes. Pursuant to Finnish data protection law, Google delisted the URL. Google denied a request from the Austrian Data Protection Authority on behalf of an Austrian businessman and former politician to delist 22 URLs because of his status as a public figure, his position of prominence in his current profession and the nature of the URLs in question (reputable news sources and a government record).

To read Google’s Transparency Report, click here.

Why it matters: Google assesses each request on a case-by-case basis and may seek out more information in some instances, according to the report, based on criteria established in alignment with the Article 29 Working Party guidelines.



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