Google launches right-to-be-forgotten application form

Data privacy

Google launches right-to-be-forgotten application form

Warwick Ashford

Google has introduced an online application form for Europeans who want personal data to be removed from online search results.

The company has been inundated with take-down requests after Europe’s top court supported the controversial right to be forgotten in a landmark ruling.

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The case was brought by Mario Gonzalez of Spain, who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google's search results infringed his privacy.

Take-down requests were reportedly submitted within a day of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that an individual could demand that "irrelevant or outdated" information be deleted from results.

Google said the application form is an “initial effort” and the company will be working with data protection authorities and others in the coming months as to refine its approach to dealing with take-down requests.

Google said it had convened a committee of senior executives and independent experts as part of an effort to find a long-term approach to dealing with take-down requests.

According to the form, Google will assess each request and balance "privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information".

The company said it will also look at whether the results include outdated information and whether there is a public interest in the information.

The form requires applicants to attach a photo identity and provide links to the material they want removed, their country of origin and a reason for their request.

Google said it needs to verify each applicant’s identity because it “often receives fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information”.

It was not clear when Google will begin responding to the take-down requests.

In the form, Google says it is "working to finalise our implementation of removal requests under European data protection law as soon as possible. In the meantime please fill out the form below and we will notify you when we start processing your request".

Google chief executive Larry Page told the Financial Times that the company had been caught out by the ruling and will in future be more involved in the debate about privacy in Europe.

“We’re trying now to be more European and think about it maybe more from a European context,” he told the paper.

But Page said Europe’s new online privacy regime will make it hard for internet startups and expressed concern that increased regulation of the internet will have a negative impact on innovation.

He also expressed concern that the landmark ruling could encourage repressive regimes around the world that are looking to increase online censorship.

Speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting shortly after the ruling, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said the case was a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know.

“From Google's perspective, that's a balance," he said. "Google believes – having looked at the decision, which is binding – that the balance that was struck was wrong.”

Read more about EU data protection reform

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