Google will take requests to scrub embarrassing search results. But it won’t help U.S. users.


Google's "forget me" form is live in Europe and only applies to the European versions of its search engine. (EPA/Boris Roessler)

Google launched a Web form Friday that allows European customers to ask for aspects of their  digital histories to be expunged from the search engine -- but only in Europe.

This is Google's first response to a decision by Europe's highest court ordering the tech giant to review requests from users who say that articles linked from Google searches besmirch their reputations. The ruling, handed down earlier this month, chafed Google and several other search engine operators, who called it a form of censorship that forces them to make judgment calls about what should or shouldn't be on the Web.

"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 in a statement.

Someone submitting a request to Google must include a list of the links to be removed, a justification for the information's removal and a photo ID.

The company will note when certain search information has been removed from results, similar to what it does when people search for things that have been subject to intellectual property claims. European customers searching for delisted information will see a note at the bottom of their results letting them know that something has been removed.

Google said it has already received thousands of requests to have information removed, but it has not released any details on how long it may take to review those requests. The company said it has also established  an advisory committee to review the process. Members of that review panel, the company said, will include experts on European data laws and  Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales -- who has decried the decision, as the BBC reported. It will be co-chaired by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and the company's chief legal officer, David Drummond.

According to Reuters, the man who brought the original case against Google, Mario Costeja, has said he's satisfied with the steps that Google's taken. "I want to congratulate Google because they have taken a decision that humanizes a tool that can now be considered perfect," he told the news agency in a Friday report.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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