The recent decision by EU highest court stated that the right to privacy of individuals can outweigh the freedom of search engines to link to information about them. In other words, the information may remain online, but the search results should not show it.
Since then, Google was hit with a huge number of applications to remove links to outdated or irrelevant information: for example, one of them is a former British politician who is now seeking office and wants Google to remove information about their behavior while in office. The next applicant is an individual convicted of possessing child abuse images, who demands links to pages about his conviction be taken out of the search index. Finally, one of the doctors didn’t like negative reviews from his patients and wants them be not searchable either.
Google admitted that the court decision would have significant implications for the way they handle takedown requests. The company is already busy enough with removing millions of links every month from its indexes under requests from copyright holders over infringing content. At least, this kind of work is largely automated. But when people demand removal, the company has to consider each request individually.
The European court claimed that search engines must remove links to “irrelevant or outdated” data, while the original information itself can remain. The problem is that it can cause tensions between the search engines and news organizations, which may argue that links should not be removed. In result, the search engines face a risk of being sued by both the complainant and the original source of the information.
Apparently, all search engines that have operations in Europe, including Bing and Yahoo, will have to devise procedures to accept requests for link removal from people. As for Google, the company may consider offloading the task of taking decision on such requests to the local data protection commissioners – this would add significantly to the commissioners’ caseload.