41,000 requests to remove names under ‘right to be forgotten law’

Google has been deluged with requests by people wanting their names removed from its search engine under their ‘right to be forgotten’.

It emerged yesterday the company had, within a period of four days, received 41,000 requests from people across Europe seeking to have personal information removed from web search results.

The company introduced the takedown mechanism last Friday.

The form can be filled out by anyone seeking to have personal data removed and was utilised 12,000 times on the first day alone.

It follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice that set out how people have the right to ask for the removal of search data, even if it is published legally, in cases where it is deemed “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”.

Google said it could not provide a country-by-country breakdown regarding the origin of the requests, meaning it was unknown how many, if any, of the requests came from Ireland.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said it had received “a small number of queries (approximately 20) about this matter since the judgment was announced”.

A spokeswoman for the office said: “I can confirm that Google has been in contact with us to discuss the implications of the judgment. In addition, the issue will be discussed in the Article 29 Working Party this week.”

She said half the queries received were requests for general advice and the remaining queries typically referred to the removal of search links to media articles.

The Article 29 Working Party will look at how regulators should react to complaints about Google’s management of requests to delete online details.

EU data protection organisations, as well as national courts, have the responsibility for ruling on any disputes that may arise over Google’s decisions to remove information online.

The man appointed by Google to advise the company on the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling said yesterday that the European Court of Justice verdict was “part of the coming of age of our information society”.

Writing in The Guardian, Luciano Floridi — director of research, and professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the Oxford Internet Institute — said much European data protection law was “outdated” and that “more and more, our lives are spent and shaped in the infosphere”.

“There are different rights, values, and interests — indeed different philosophies — at stake. We do not know yet how to harmonise them. Yet our effort should go towards finding a collaborative solution.

“The temptation is to portray the debate in terms of a zero-sum game: Team Privacy vs Team Free Speech, only one of them can win. Of course, yes/no questions are easier to explain and zero-sum games are much more exciting to play.”

The Google takedown request form is available here.


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