SANTA MONICA, CA – Google, which is now forced to honor the “Right To Be Forgotten” in Europe as the result of a high court decision, should voluntarily offer the same privacy protection to users in the United States after Google’s own analysis shows the right is being successfully implemented, Consumer Watchdog said today.
A letter from the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group to Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, noted that successful implementation of the Right To Be Forgotten requires a balance between an individual’s privacy and the public’s right to know in making a decision to remove a link in a search engine result.
“ I was heartened to see – based on Google’s own numbers – that you appear able to strike this balance in Europe and it does not appear to be an undue burden on your resources,” wrote John M. Simpson Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director. “Google is clearly making the Right To Be Forgotten work for its users in Europe, but that is because you must under the law. We call on you to voluntarily offer the same right to Google users in the United States.”
Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrpagertbf101314.pdf
According to the Internet giant’s Transparency Report updated on Friday, Google has received a total of 146, 357 removal requests involving 498,737 URLs. Google said it had completed processing 409,897 of those URLs, removing 171,183 or 41.8% and retaining 238,714 or 58.2%. The largest number of removal requests – 29,140 – came from France. Germany had 25, 206 and 18,846 originated in Great Britain.
Read Google’s Transparency Report here: https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/europeprivacy/?hl=en
In May the European Court of Justice ruled that a person has the right to request the removal of search engine links to information that is inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive. The removal isn’t automatic if requested. There needs to be a balance between the individual’s privacy and public’s right to know in making a decision to remove a link.
Examples from Google’s Transparency Report make clear how the Internet giant is implementing the Right To Be Forgotten and apparently striking the right balance, Consumer Watchdog said.
“As your examples clearly show, removal won’t always happen, but the balance you appear to have found between privacy and the public’s right to know demonstrates you can make the Right to Be Forgotten work,” wrote Simpson. “Americans deserve the same Right to Be Forgotten. Indeed, with your repeated claims to care about privacy, you should be ashamed that Google is not treating people on both sides of the Atlantic the same way.”
Here some examples from the Internet giant’s Transparency Report of how various removal requests were handled:
— A woman in Italy requested that Google remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name. The page was removed from search results for her name.
— A Swiss financial professional asked Google to remove more than 10 links to pages reporting on his arrest and conviction for financial crimes. Google did not remove the pages from search results.
— A rape victim in Germany asked Google to remove a link to a newspaper article about the crime. The page was removed from search results for the individual’s name.
— Google received multiple requests from an Italian asking Google to remove 20 links to recent articles about his arrest for financial crimes committed in a professional capacity. Google did not remove the pages from search results.
— A media professional in the UK asked Google to remove four links to articles reporting on embarrassing content he posted to the Internet. Google did not remove the pages from search results.
— An Italian crime victim asked Google to remove three links that discuss the crime, which occurred decades ago. The pages were removed from search results for her name.
— In the UK a man asked Google to remove links to articles on the Internet that reference his dismissal for sexual crimes committed on the job. Google did not remove the pages from search results.
— A doctor in the UK asked Google to remove more than 50 links to newspaper articles about a botched procedure. Three pages that contained personal information about the doctor, but did not mention the procedure were removed from search results for his name. The rest of the links to reports on the incident remain in search results.
— A German asked that Google remove close to 50 links to articles about an embarrassing private exchange that became public. The pages have been removed from search results for his name.
— A British public official asked Google to remove a link to a student organization’s petition demanding his removal. Google did not remove the page from search results.
— Google received a request from a former clergyman to remove two links to articles covering an investigation of sexual abuse accusations while in his professional capacity. Google did not remove the pages from search results.
— A German asked Google to remove a link to an article covering a contest in which he participated as a minor. The page was removed from search results for his name.
Americans support the Right To Be Forgotten, Consumer Watchdog said. A poll by Software Advice, Inc. in early September found:
— 61% of Americans believe some version of the right to be forgotten is necessary.
— 39% want a European-style blanket right to be forgotten, without restrictions.
— 47% were concerned that "irrelevant" search results can harm a person’s reputation.
Read the Software Advice Poll here: http://www.softwareadvice.com/security/industryview/right-to-be-forgotten-2014/
Visit Consumer Watchdog at www.consumerwatchdog.org