Google has implemented a link removal form, as per the "right to be forgotten" EU ruling, by which European citizens can request information about themselves that they consider outdated or irrelevant to be stripped from Google search results.
The EU ruling came about earlier this month, as the result of a Spanish man bringing a case forward whereby Google search results on his name produced articles concerning his house repossession for debt repayments. He argued that because this happened back in the nineties, it was now irrelevant, and a violation of his privacy rights for Google to display it to the searching public – and the EU court agreed.
Hence, as was rumoured two weeks ago, Google has been forced to enact an online form whereby complainants can lodge a removal request for search results pertaining to them. You can check the "Search removal request under European Data Protection law" form out here.
The form's a fairly basic affair, which asks for a name and contact email, and the link(s) you want removed (note that it's just the Google search result which is removed – not the actual web content, of course), along with an explanation of why the link is "irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate". You do have to also include an attachment of some form of ID to prove your identity (and to deter frivolous claims, no doubt).
Google will then have to make a judgement on the validity of each case, with the firm noting that it will "attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information". The search engine states that it will take into account whether there's a public interest in the specified information – and if it relates to the likes of financial scams, criminal convictions or malpractice.
The form may change, by all accounts, as Google notes this is just a first effort.
Google says on the form web page: "We're working to finalise our implementation of removal requests under European data protection law as soon as possible. In the meantime, please fill out the form and we will notify you when we start processing your request. We appreciate your patience."
Let the flood of complaints begin – indeed, we've already seen the likes of an MP, a paedophile, and a man who attempted to kill his family make requests to Google following the EU court ruling, before this form went live.
While some privacy activists may be happy with this state of affairs, freedom of speech campaigners are protesting and calling this web censorship. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, called the EU judgement "one of the most wide-sweeping Internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen."
Google's CEO, Larry Page, has also made his displeasure clear, arguing that this move could hurt future Internet startups and plays into the hand of repressive regimes.
Page told the FT that, "as we regulate the internet, I think we're not going to see the kind of innovation we've seen". He also noted: "It will be used by other governments that aren't as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things."