30 May 2014

Why you may not find it when you Google it

Google introduces a new form allowing people in Europe to request that information about them on the web is removed from search results.

Google introduces a new form allowing people in Europe to request that information about them on the web is removed from search results (Getty)

The technology giant has decided to take action after the European court of justice ruled that people have the “right to be forgotten” in cyberspace.

The ruling, which attempts to strike a balance between freedom of information and privacy, applies to other search engines, but Google is the first to draw up an online form enabling web users to submit requests for information to be removed.

Google is by far the most popular search engine in Europe, responsible for 90 per cent of web searches.

Different results

Google searches vary depending on where web users live. For example, results from google.com in the US are different from google.co.uk in the UK.

In future, if Google decides to go along with a request to remove a web page from its search results, this will only apply to google.co.uk and other European versions of the search engine.

It will not apply to google.com, and the company told Channel 4 News that people who use google.com in the UK, by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of the Google home page (pictured right), would still be able to access information that is not available on google.co.uk.

The form is available to Europeans from the support section of the Google legal site. Users list the URL addresses they would like to see removed from searches linked to them.

The form asks for personal information as well as proof of ID in order to prevent any fraudulent requests being submitted.

‘Difficult judgements’

A Google spokesman said: “To comply with the recent European court ruling, we’ve made a webform available for Europeans to request the removal of results from our search engine.

“The court’s ruling requires Google to make difficult judgments about an individual’s right to be forgotten and the public’s right to know.”

Google said requests would be rejected if information was felt to be “in the public interest”.

The company is setting up an advisory committee to look at the issues involved. Members include Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and Luciano Floridi, a professor of ethics and philosophy at Oxford University.

Mr Wales has strong views about the court judgment, calling it “astonishing” after it was announced and “one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I’ve ever seen”.

He later tweeted: “When will a European Court demand that Wikipedia censor an article with truthful information because an individual doesn’t like it?”

Since the ruling, Google says it has received “a few thousand” requests for data to be removed from searches.

In the UK, a former politician seeking re-election and a convicted paedophile have made requests to have links to news stories about them removed.