The latest legal ruling by the EU Court of Justice will have a huge impact of search engines, make Google’s life harder and allow you to remove embarrassing information from the Internet – in Europe at least.
The EU Court of Justice ruled that European residents have a right to request removal of their personal information (“take-down request”) from search engines, such as Google.
This means that 500 million citizens from 28 countries in the EU can now request any information about them to be removed from all search engine services. It does not mean that the online publisher has to remove the article or information – just that the information should not show up in a search of the Internet.
A person in the EU can now demand removal of their ugly past from Google and be out of the reach of other internet searches. If a search engine refuses to remove the link, an individual has a right to request a court order to force them to do so.
What does this mean for Google?
Well, for starters it means a huge increase in workload for Google. With this new take-down requirement, Google and all search engines will have to figure out how to manage the large number of removal requests they are receiving as a result.
There is also the issue of having a legal team ready to assess whether they are valid and legitimate requests – as the argument of retaining the links on the basis of public interest may be made. In addition, they need to ensure that they can authenticate the requests to ensure the people demanding the take-downs are actually authorized to do so and are who they claim to be.
Many of the recent requests are a result of this judgment are coming from convicted criminals. The BBC reported more than half the UK demands came from convicted criminals and Google has found that the demands have included a man convicted of trying to kill his family, another from someone convicted of running tax scams and others who have been convicted of possessing child pornography or child abuse images.
What does this mean for Australia and non-EU countries?
It’s not clear yet how this ruling will be interpreted or the effect on other countries. It may cause some search engines to be overly cautious and compliant by removing more links than are necessarily related to a request, just to avoid potential liability.
It may also mean that you will be able to do the same search in the US for an individual that the EU has deleted the links for and still find the links to the articles and references!
It’s not clear how far reaching this ruling will be applied and so we may see the implications sooner than we think in the US, Australia and the rest of the world. What’s next is the question of whether this is a case of Internet censorship? Watch this space.
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