updated 10:45 am EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
Politician, Doctor also seeking negative information redacted from search
As some of the first requests to Google after the European Union court ruling that it must adhere to the "right to be forgotten" on the Internet, some UK figures have made requests for information redaction. Three notable requests include a politician seeking re-election, wanting references to his questionable behavior in office to be removed; a convicted pedophile looking for links to his conviction be cut; and a doctor petitioning to purge negative reviews from patients.
Just hours after the ruling, Google was already receiving requests to purge "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" personal data. The trio of requests was reported by the BBC, but it is unclear where they are sourcing the data.
In the cited cases, the conviction is a matter of public record, as should be the "questionable behavior" of the politician seeking re-election. Additionally, the reviews of the doctor's performance by patients, like the other requests, can hardly be seen as "irrelevant or no longer relevant," so it is unlikely that any of these three requests, should they be genuine, will be honored.
"A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know. From Google's perspective, that's a balance," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt of the court's ruling. "Google believes -- having looked at the decision, which is binding -- that the balance that was struck was wrong."
A spokesman for Google in Europe said that "the ruling has significant implications for how we handle takedown requests. This is logistically complicated -- not least because of the many languages involved, and the need for careful review. As soon as we have thought through exactly how this will work, which may take several weeks, we will let our users know."
Despite the complaint by the Google spokesman, Deputy Commissioner for Hamburg's Data-Protection Authority Ulrich Kuhn said that the search engine has "promised to come up with a process within two weeks for users to log their complaints." He added that "Similar technical processes already exist at Google Germany, so we are confident they'll manage to adapt these within that time frame."
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said that the ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union earlier this week was "ridiculous" and believes that "a very strict reading of the law leads to this very bizarre conclusion that a newspaper can publish information and yet Google can't link to it -- it makes no sense at all."