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Google to flag right to be forgotten search removals

Notifications for removed links

Google plans to notify users when results have been removed under the right to be forgotten, a controversial ruling which allows individuals to request the removal of links within a search engine’s results when the links point to sensitive personal information.

The right to be forgotten was introduced to the public earlier last month when Mario Costeja Gonzalez won a five year battle in which the European court ordered that a Google search of his name should no longer return a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.

Is it alright to be forgotten?

On June 8th, almost a month after the Gonzalez ruling, the Guardian reported on the state of the right to be forgotten, with suggestions that it could lead to a form censorship over the internet.

In the report, it states that of the 41,000 requests to remove information already received by Google these include requests from a politician with a murky past, a convicted paedophile, and a man who had attempted to murder his family.

Some leading figures hold strong opinions against the removal of such links. The founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales said:

“I don’t regard truthful information in court records published by court order in a newspaper to be private information. If anything, the decision is likely to simply muddle the interesting philosophical questions and make it more difficult to make real progress on privacy issues.”

While information is still retained on a target site, the decision allows all Europeans to request that “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” links are removed from search engine results to prevent that information being found using Google.

In the same way that links to copyrighted content are treated, Google now plans to notify the searcher when any links have been removed under the right to be forgotten.

The Guardian suggests these could work like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act removal notifications, an example of which can be seen if a user searches for ‘Rihanna mp3’ wherein they would see the following message at the bottom of the search results:

“In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.”

Kleon West, business development director at theEword, said: “Seeing such a notification may tell a searcher there’s a hidden, potentially interesting story on the internet about the person they just searched. But this is a complicated issue.”

“On the one hand, there may be a legitimate reason for a piece of information to be removed from search results; on the other, this opens up the possibility of a truth being lost so that people can repair their tattered public image.”

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