Google has begun removing some search results following a recent European Union ruling, although a digital rights expert here said the manner in which it was doing so was "a little disappointing".
The removal of certain search results comes after a European Court ruling in May on the “right to be forgotten”.
Following the European Court of Justice ruling, Google opened an online request form and received 41,000 requests from across Europe within four days of doing so.
A Google spokesman said yesterday: “This week we’re starting to take action on removals requests that we’ve received.
“This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue.”
However, there was some confusion over the manner in which the search engine giant was altering its search results.
Searches for some — but not all — individuals yesterday included a posting at the bottom of the search page stating: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe” — even regarding searches where the subject had not made a request.
According to a link on the Google page: “When you search for a name, you may see a notice that says that results may have been modified in accordance with data protection law in Europe.
“We’re showing this notice in Europe when a user searches for most names, not just pages that have been affected by a removal.”
UCD law lecturer TJ McIntyre, of Digital Rights Ireland, was among those who had not requested any information to be taken down but for whom the Google message was shown.
“I am a little disappointed,” he said. “I had hoped they would tell you when particular results had been removed.”
He said the apparentrandom nature of the search page message — appearing under some searches, not under others — was “completely pointless”, but added that Google was complying with the ruling and could be relied upon to outline in future how many requests had been received and how many had been responded to.
“The easiest way of it isto comply with the result removal request [in all cases] but having said that they seem to be taking reasonablyseriously that there is a balance of public interest involved,” Mr McIntyre said.
He added that Google had “a good track record” regarding publication of requests made to it regarding personal information sought by governments and police forces.
Google, as well as Facebook, has been criticised over their handling of personal data.
* Read the Google explainer: www.google.ie/policies/faq/
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