So, how’s that Right To Be Forgotten ruling going, Google?

Since May’s Right To Be Forgotten EU ruling, Google has apparently been overwhelmed with demands by those looking to get questionable pictures and information removed. The world’s biggest search engine only started removing listings in response to the new mandate last week.

However, Google is also disclosing to searchers when people have requested to have information removed. This means that if you searched, for say, Joe Blogs and someone called Joe Blogs asked for some information to be removed, you’d be informed of this fact.

However, what’s confusing about this is that Google are reporting removals even when they haven’t happened.

google magnifier - So, how’s that Right To Be Forgotten ruling going, Google?

Blanket removals

The way it works is that notices are supposed to appear for non-celebrity names, when someone searches under one of the EU-specific search engines.  However, if (like Joe Blogs) your name’s common, it’s going to be hard to tell WHICH Joe Blogs asked for the information to be removed. The problem with Google’s initial plan to disclose those that people had asked to be forgotten was that if someone has an unusual name, it’s pretty obvious they wanted some information concealed. Therefore the searcher could easily go to, so far unaffected by the ruling, to find the information. As a result, Google are trying to make up for this by adding a blanket notice to avoid highlighting any specific individual with a less common name.


This change renders Google’s original goal rather futile. After all if EVERYONE’s name comes up with the same generic notice, which appears to be: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe,” what’s the point of showing that someone wanted content removed in the first place?

Google has said on its FAQ page that the reason the notice comes up for most names is because it’s “still early” and Google’s building a database of names and then will put notices up for all of these. The information goes onto say that the database won’t be “perfect” and that there will be “some names where a search doesn’t generate a notice”.

Celebrity Names

When it comes to celebrities, you won’t see the notice at all. The argument is that with non-celebrities the disclosure means that no one will get singled out. However, with celebrities, showing a disclosure makes it easier to work out they could have asked for information to be removed. For example, if there was a very famous celebrity called Joe Blogs, the blanket disclosure may not work. So it’s hard to see what Google would do in this case. Ultimately, it all seems rather confusing and inconsistent – common sense says it’s going to be difficult for Google to manage this going forward.

We’ll keep you updated on developments; watch this space!

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