Google has launched a service which entitles Europeans to request personal data to be removed from online search results.
The latest development follows a landmark European Union court ruling on 13 May, which gives people the 'right to be forgotten'. It stated that links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased on request. The case was triggered by a Spanish man who complained about an auction notice for his repossessed home that appeared on Google's search results, which he believed infringed his privacy.
Google have outlined how each request will be assessed; balancing the privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information. Google also highlighted the type of information they would look at: "financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials." On the form that applicants must fill in, Google states: "When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information."
The online form asks individuals to provide links to the material they want removed, their country of origin, a reason for their request and a valid photo identity. In response to questions about the provision of a photo identity Google revealed: "Google often receives fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information […] to prevent this kind of abuse, we need to verify identity."
However, in an interview given to the Financial Times, Google's co-founder Larry Page said he regretted not having a real debate about privacy in Europe and he warned: "As we regulate the internet, I think we're not going to see the kind of innovation we've seen," and he added that the ruling would persuade "other governments that aren't as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things."