Google has responded to criticisms over their early implementation of the “right to be forgotten” ruling after various complaints.
The Guardian protested the removal of its stories describing how a soccer referee lied about reversing a penalty decision. It was unclear who asked Google to remove the stories.
The Guardian reported earlier this week that three of its articles relating to Dougie McDonald, a football referee who lied about his reasons for awarding a penalty in a Scottish Premier League match, had been removed from Google’s European search results for McDonald’s name.
After more than a day of refusing to comment on the matter, Google announced last night it would be reinstating the links in question.
In a statement to Reuters, Google said: “This is a new and evolving process for us. We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling.”
Separately, Google has not restored links to a BBC article that described how former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer E. Stanley O’Neal was ousted after the investment bank racked up billions of dollars in losses.
Deliberately over-zealous reaction from Google?
Meanwhile, Google’s director of communications for Europe, Peter Barron, admitted the company could make the process clearer when informing publishers of requested deletions. When interviewed on BBC Radio 4, he called their approach so far as a “learning process”.
According to Barron, the request resulting in the BBC blog post being removed came from a commenter, rather than the subject of the article itself, as had been assumed. He also denied the accusation that Google have been quick to remove links in an effort to subvert the judgement.
Speaking on the programme, Peston said: “It was an inevitable reaction by me, when I got the email from Google saying my particular story was no longer going to be searchable, to think that it was being cast into oblivion, because that’s what the email implied.”
In response, Barron said: “That’s very fair feedback. That is something we are looking at. It is completely understandable that Robert assumed that it was Stan O’Neal who made the complaint. So that’s something we’ll look at. We could perhaps say ‘bear in mind it may not be the person you think it is’.
“We have to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect people’s identities.”
The decision followed a May ruling by the European Court of Justice that allows members of the public to request “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive” data be deleted from Google searches.
The initial case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home, which appeared on Google’s search results, infringed his privacy.
Google — which opposed the court decision — responded by introducing an online form giving visitors to its European sites a formal route to make removal requests. In the first four days after uploading the form, Google received more than 41,000 requests.
Watch this video from Bloomberg discussing the link removal row: