Google to tour Europe to discuss right-to-be-forgotten ruling

Testing a removal request is a 'very vague and subjective' process, Google's chief legal officer said

Google is going to tour Europe with a band of external advisers this fall to discuss a landmark ruling by Europe's top court that gave people the right to have personal information excluded from search engine listings in Europe.

Under this so-called right-to-be-forgotten, search engines such as Google could be forced upon request to remove results for queries that include a person's name, if the results shown are inadequate, no longer relevant, or excessive.

Since the May ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Google has received over 70,000 take-down requests covering more than 250,000 web pages.

Google has also started adding a warning to some search results on its European sites, saying some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. And last week, it started telling Web masters which links to content on their website were removed, including links to articles on websites of several British media outlets.

Some of the links to British news articles were erroneously removed, and have since been reinstated, said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer in an opinion piece published by the Guardian newspaper on Friday.

In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest, which makes the removal tests "very vague and subjective," Drummond said.

So far, removal requests have highlighted difficult value judgments. Google, for example, has been asked by former politicians to remove links to posts that criticize their policies in office. Violent criminals have asked for links to articles about their crimes to be deleted and professionals including architects and teachers have asked to remove links to bad reviews. Moreover, people asked to remove links to comments that they have written themselves and now regret, Drummond said.

"In each case someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue that it should be out in the open," he said, adding that the removal process is still very much a work in progress.

In order to deal with difficult value judgements and the question of how to balance one person's right to privacy with another's right to know, Google has set up an advisory council of external advisors that is going to tour Europe to discuss the ruling in public meetings this autumn, Drummond said.

They will also prepare a public report that will include recommendations for particularly difficult removal requests and it will also include procedural steps that could improve accountability and transparency for websites and citizens, he said

The external advisors comprise people active in the tech sector, data protection, academia, the media, and civil society. They include for instance Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and former German minister of justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger . Executive chairman and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Drummond himself will also be part of the council.

People interested in the matter can give their opinion on the council's website.

"It's a complex issue, with no easy answers. So a robust debate is both welcome and necessary as, on this issue at least, no search engine has an instant or perfect answer," Drummond said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Googleintellectual propertysecuritycopyrightlegalprivacy

More about GoogleIDGWikipedia

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Loek Essers

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts