Google Starts Forgetting

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Google on Thursday begin rolling out new filters on searches in Europe, after a top court last month ordered the company to delete some links.

Implementation of the so-called “right to be forgotten,” which allows people to request that some embarrassing or outdated links are taken down, would be a gradual process, Google said. As the process continues, it is likely to increase tension over the fine line between personal privacy and transparency.

“This week, we’re starting to take action on the removals requests that we’ve received,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue.

“We’ll continue to work with data protection authorities and others as we implement this ruling.”

In May, the European Court of Justice declared that people have the right to order Google to remove links to some old or outdated content. Since then, the company has been working to prepare for what is likely to be a massive compliance effort.

The First Amendment makes the U.S. unlikely to follow suit, but some privacy advocates say the country should consider the option. “The Internet giant should offer U.S. users the same basic right to privacy,” John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, said in a statement. Simpson, a vocal critic of Google, called the company’s decision to limit the court’s decision to European users “an outrageous disregard for the privacy rights of its U.S. users.”

Simpson pushed back on criticism that the European court's ruling will allow for censorship and compared the right to be forgotten in Europe to the U.S.'s “privacy by obscurity," the idea that old information about a person remains accessible but is not prominent.

“The right simply allows a European to identify links that are no longer relevant and ask for their removal… Americans deserve the same right,” Simpson said. “Google, which claims to care about privacy, should be ashamed that it is not treating people on both sides of the Atlantic the same way.”

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