Google has announced that they are putting into place a mechanism that will allow people to request removal of links that are no longer relevant and could be damaging.
The website went live on Google earlier today and will follow a strict process of requesting that links to potentially damaging or embarrassing material from the past be remove in what campaigners are calling ‘the right to be forgotten’.
This has come after a High Court Ruling at the European Court of Justice making it clear that search engines need to take heed of individuals who request that information about them be removed from the internet. As well as creating a huge bureaucratic job for Google, it has also been touted as a threat to freedom of expression. As this ruling would not be upheld in the United States due to the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, Google will only remove links from local versions of its search engine meaning that the information would still be available on people using Google.com.
Google will have proposed a system wherein individuals can apply to have links removed. They will need to provide evidence proving their identity, identify which links need to be removed and explain why. Google will have to tread a fine line between ensuring that they are not removing links that are in the public interest, and complying with an individuals right to a private life, as per Article 3 of the Human Rights Act.
To this end, it will take into account criminal convictions, financial scams, fraud, professional misconduct etc; to ensure that any information the public have a right to know they will still be able to access. These decisions will be overseen by a commission which includes Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Frank La Rue, a UN representative specialising in free speech.
Privacy campaigners are hailing this as a victory for anyone who doesn’t want to have their entire life story available to everyone who has an internet connection, but some critics are questioning the logistical power this kind of regulation would take, with over 500 million residents of the continent able to request that information be removed.
Google has not given a time scale as to how long links would take to be removed, or indeed if they would be removed at all, but this will be considered an important step in regulating the power given to massive internet corporations like Google.