Google reports on European privacy requests for search removals

Google announced that it has evaluated 146,357 requests from European citizens to remove 498,737 URLs from its search results, pursuant to a May ruling in “Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González,” in which the Court of Justice of the European Union found that individuals have the right to ask search engines like Google to remove certain results about them. 

Google said it has removed 41.8% of the URLs, with 58.2% remaining in the search results.

Google cited some examples of its decisions. It honored the request of a woman to remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder. It did not honor a request from a financial professional to remove pages reporting on his arrest and conviction for financial crimes. In another case, a doctor requested Google remove more than 50 links to newspaper articles about a botched procedure. Reported Google, “Three pages that contained personal information about the doctor but did not mention the procedure have been removed from search results for his name. The rest of the links to reports on the incident remain in search results.”

Sites most impacted by the URL removals were www.facebook.com, profileengine.com, and www.youtube.com.

Google offers an FAQ on the removal request process.

Jess Hemerly, public policy manager at Google, said in a blog post, “We believe it’s important to be transparent about how much information we’re removing from search results while being respectful of individuals who have made requests.”

Brendan Sasso at National Journal quoted Emma Llanso, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, as saying, “Transparency reports from the search engines will provide essential information about the scale and nature of information that individuals are hoping to obscure, which should inform the debate going forward.”

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