Google To Remove Right-To-Be-Forgotten Links Worldwide, For Searchers In European Countries

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Google plans to censor European “Right To Be Forgotten” links on sites worldwide, for those those searching from the specific European countries where particular requests were made. This would make it much harder for those in Europe to switch to non-European versions of Google and still find these links.

The Situation Now: Removals Only From European Editions

Under Europe’s Right To Be Forgotten, Europeans can request that search engines like Google remove links that they consider to violate their privacy or that are considered harmful in some way and no longer relevant to the public interest. Those requesting removal have to specify both the links they want dropped and the specific search terms they want the links removed from.

If granted, Google will:

  • Drop the links only for the specific search terms requested. They continue to appear for other search terms.
  • Drop the links only for its European sites.
  • Continue to show the links for all searches in Google editions for non-European countries.

The rules above mean that if someone named “Magdalena Doetgeta” asks that certain links be removed for her name, if granted, those links would disappear for searches for her name but still appear for other searches that might be relevant, such as “Drunk driving arrests in Munich.”

The rules above also mean that this would only happen if someone was within Europe and searching on a European edition of Google, such as Google France or Google UK. At these editions of Google, the links would not show for her name.

If someone went to a non-European edition of Google, such as Google.com or Google Canada, even if they were physically within Europe, they would still see the links for the name involved.

The Change: Removals From All Editions Globally, Only For Those In The Requesting Country

With the change, which we understand will happen in the near future, Right To Be Forgotten links will be dropped from all versions of Google worldwide, for anyone who is detected to be searching from the specific European country where the request came from.

For example, say that a RTBF request was filed by someone who is physically in France. Under the new system, if the removal is granted, that URL will be continued to be removed from all European versions of Google. In addition, it will also be removed worldwide for anyone searching from the particular country where the request originated from.

In other words, people physically in France who search on Google.com or Google Canada would no longer find these links. But people in the UK searching on Google.com or Google Canada world.

To date Google has removed roughly 43 percent of submitted links or a total of 1.4 million URLs.

Google RTBF

The censorship would not apply to those searching outside of Europe.

The Background

Google had been resisting European demands that the company remove links purged Right to Be Forgotten links as it now plans to do. France’s Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) threatened to fine the company €150,000 ($169,000) for failing to apply the rule on a worldwide basis. It argued that the failure to do so effectively undermined what the Right To Be Forgotten was intended to protect.

Google appealed CNIL’s order. Now, however, the company seems to have given up that fight. Today, Reuters reported that the worldwide change will come, following previous reports last month by Le Monde and EFE. Search Engine Land independently confirmed the accuracy of these reports with Google today.

It also seems that Google is likely waiting for CNIL to agree to the plan. From the Reuters story, CNIL makes statements suggesting this is being reviewed as a solution. It’s possible that it might be accepted; it’s also possible that CNIL might demand that worldwide censorship happen for any European in any country, not just for those in the county where a request was filed.

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