Skip to main content

Google accidentally leaks right to be forgotten information

Google has accidentally revealed data relating to so-called right to be forgotten requests.

Data hidden in the source code of the search engine’s transparency report was discovered by the Guardian and reveals the type and scale of request being received.

Read more: BBC reveals stories affected by Google’s Right To Be Forgotten

The EU decided to implement the policy after individuals claimed that their personal privacy was being invaded by search results that were no longer relevant. However, the ruling has been criticised as being a means of Photoshopping one’s life.

The leaked Google data is only likely to increase these concerns, after it revealed that 95 per cent of requests are from the general public. Less than five per cent of the 220,000 requests concerned politicians, celebrities or criminals.

Individuals can make a request for Google to remove a search result where they have grounds to believe that it is “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant.” This can be interpreted in a number of ways and has led to a variety of requests ranging from the removal of online information concerning a deceased family member to individuals asking for embarrassing content to be erased.

However, many have claimed that the right to be forgotten not only harms freedom of information, but is also ineffective. Because it only relates to EU versions of Google’s search results, the US site will continue to list any results that are removed.

Google has now updated its source code, removed the leaked data and explained that the information was simply part of a transparency test.

“We’ve always aimed to be as transparent as possible about our right to be forgotten decisions,” a company spokesperson explained. “The data the Guardian found in our Transparency Report’s source code does of course come from Google, but it was part of a test to figure out how we could best categorise requests. We discontinued that test in March because the data was not reliable enough for publication. We are however currently working on ways to improve our transparency reporting.”

Read more: Google faces calls to introduce US Right to Be Forgotten

In the UK, the BBC have circumvented the right to be forgotten ruling by publishing a list of all the links from its own site that Google has removed.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.