Two weeks ago, Europe’s highest court ruled that E.U. citizens have “the right to be forgotten” — in other, less poetic words, the right to request that search engines like Google remove unflattering or defamatory search results at an individual’s request.
The ruling was a bit of a shock, particularly for the search engine industry, now handed the unsavory (and unwieldy) logistical task of evaluating and processing an untold number of requests. On Friday, Google revealed how it plans to do that: through a (suspiciously well-hidden!) request form on its legal page, where petitioners can submit personal information, offending links, and justifications for the request.
The bulk of the form consists of the URL-removal section, which looks like this:
Interestingly, Google also requires that petitioners submit a photo of their driver’s licenses or national ID cards in order to verify identity; the company “often receives fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information,” it explains.
Petitioners are also required to select “the country whose law applies to your request,” presumably to determine which Google domain will remove the result. Google has said, to the disappointment of some privacy activists, that if a German citizen requests a link come down, for instance, it will come down from Google.de — but not Google.com, Google.fr, or any of the search engine’s other assorted domains.
That alone guarantees the so-called “right to be forgotten” will be, well … incomplete. It also makes sure that requests are limited to EU residents. Americans who click through the various privacy options on Google’s legal page still get this message:
Google.com is a US site regulated by US law. Google provides access to publicly available webpages, but does not control the content of any of the billions of pages currently in the index. Given this fact, and pursuant to Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, Google does not remove allegedly defamatory material from our search results. You will need to work directly with the webmaster of the page in question to have this information removed or changed.
Their only other recourse? Get a court order.