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Jimmy Wales issues another warning over Google censorship with “right to be forgotten”

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has been speaking out on the issue of Google's removal of search links in terms of the "right to be forgotten" scheme, a topic which he has made his opinions known about before.

When the EU first judged that Google needed to offer European citizens a right to scrub links out from its search engine if they were outdated or "irrelevant", Wales stepped forward to call it an astonishing judgement (opens in new tab), and "one of the most wide-sweeping Internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen".

And as the link removal scheme (people can apply to Google via an online form to ask for links to be removed) hits the headlines once more, amidst a meeting between the EU and the big search engines (opens in new tab) over exactly how these requests are judged and implemented, Wales has been talking to Radio 4's Today programme.

He said (via the Telegraph (opens in new tab)): "We have this one ruling of the ECJ which is very open-ended and very hard to interpret... I would say the biggest problem we have is that the law seems to indicate Google needs to censor links to information that is clearly public – links to articles in legally published, truthful news stories."

Wales cautioned: "That is a very dangerous path to go down, and if we want to go down a path where we are going to be censoring history, there is no way we should leave a private company like Google in charge of making those decisions."

Wales then noted that one of the biggest issues with the approach the EU ruling has ordered is that personal data is such a broad definition within European law, that pretty much anything can be considered as such. Whereas, he argues, this law should really pertain to privacy and protection of consumers in terms of not having truly personal and dangerous data (health records, financial details, and so forth) out there on the net.

Even privacy activists who welcomed the ruling aren't happy with the way things have progressed, as the manner in which Google is implementing link removal only pertains to European search sites like, meaning folks can still go on and find "forgotten" information.

That's one of the issues the EU data protection authorities have been discussing with Google (and other search engines) this week ahead of draft guidelines being composed for the scheme.

Thus far, Google has apparently received just over 90,000 requests to be forgotten (opens in new tab), with just over half of those being approved.

Darren Allan
Darren Allan

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.