31 May 2014

Google allows users in EU to censor links

8:42 am on 31 May 2014

Google says it's establishing a service which will allow Europeans to ask for online links relating to their personal life to be removed from search results.

It follows a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which says links to outdated or irrelevant data should be removed on request.

Google's chief executive Larry Page says the company will comply with the European ruling but warns it may damage innovation and play into the hands of repressive regimes.

Larry Page - rolling over on privacy in Europe.

Larry Page - rolling over on privacy in Europe. Photo: AFP

The search giant says it has received thousands of requests to remove data since that landmark ruling earlier in May by Europe's highest court - which said search engines were subject to data protection rules, and so should remove "outdated, wrong or irrelevant" information from their indexes unless there was a public interest in keeping it.

About 40 percent of the requests have come from Germany and 13 percent from Britain, and the biggest proportion of removal requests, about 31 percent, relate to links about frauds and scams.

Google has set up a web form on its site where people can request particular web links to be removed though it does not commit to removing them within any time limit.

Links will start to be removed from mid-June - though the ECJ ruling says original articles can remain.

The ECJ ruling did not specify how Google and other search engines should weigh up user requests, saying only that they should balance the needs of data privacy and public interest - for example relating to politicians seeking to have information about themselves removed.

Google will also set up a 10-strong committee of senior executives and outside experts who will try to develop a long-term approach to requests.

The web form only applies to search in Europe. In the US, the first amendment means that freedom of speech and publication trump data protection rights, which are minimal.

Google already removes about a million links per month from its index, mainly at the request of music and film copyright holders