Not satisfied with the ability of someone to erase their search engine results on European search engines, the European Commission wants to extend its policy to include search engines worldwide.
Google Search engine delisting
The issue of people being able to eliminate search engine listings about them dates back to 1998 when Mario Costeja Gonzalez’s social security debts were published in a large Spanish daily newspaper. When the newspaper’s archives were eventually published online, the man “Googled” his name and discovered the negative posting on his past social security debts. Gonzalez sued to have the article removed from the Web. To the surprise of some and dismay of others, Gonzalez victorious earlier this year after a long battle that had Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) calling the ruling “disappointing… for search engines and online publishers in general,” according to a report in PC Magazine. The report did not say if the original article was inaccurate, or if Gonzalez just wanted a negative post of him scrubbed from existence.
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Nonetheless, as a result of the ruling, EU residents can petition for certain links to be removed from search engines like Google and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Bing, providing they are not news articles in the public interest. As such, Google has been eliminating requested links in its search results from the European versions of its site, such as Google.de and Google.fr in Germany and France respectively. However, those results still appear on Google.com, which can be accessed from Europe.
“[L]imiting de-listing to EU domains on the grounds that users tend to access search engines via their national domains cannot be considered a sufficient means to satisfactorily guarantee the rights of data subjects according to the ruling,” the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said in a press release. “In practice, this means that in any case de-listing should be effective on all relevant .com domains.”
What the article didn’t address is the mandate for search engines to only remove “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” articles, which was part of the original law and a key provision.
Impact of new rules in the EU
As previously reported in ValueWalk, BBC journalist Robert Peston has felt firsthand the impact of new rules in the EU that were designed to make people anonymous. The rules, we are now discovering, could also be used to make making bad actors and their questionable decisions anonymous. In 2007 Peston penned an article on the BBC website titled “Merrill’s Mess,” a piece that explains how Merrill Lynch chief Stan O’Neal was pushed out of the investment bank after enduring significant losses on the back of what were called careless investments. Recently Peston received a surprise. A “notice of removal” from Google told him his article, “Merrill’s Mess,” would no longer be shown in European Google search results.
The issue reverts back to an issue previously reported in ValueWalk on several occasions. In May, when the European Court of Justice ordered that anyone could apply to have search results relating to them deleted from Google under the new “right to be forgotten” rule, it mandated that Google delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its results when a member of the public requests it.