August 13, 2020

Adapting to Privacy Ruling, Google Chooses to Hit ‘Undo’

google_io_keynote_2014_ap_with_creditsGoogle’s efforts to comply with a European court order on the “right to be forgotten” took another twist Friday as the company restored previously removed links to several articles from The Guardian. The links had been deleted a day earlier, stirring a public furor.

As Google again declined to explain its decision-making, the episode demonstrated the potentially bewildering complexities of trying to remove information from the Internet at the request of individuals.

Analysts and public officials, many critical of the way Google is complying with court order, say the reversal could have wider implications. That is because the right to be forgotten, the subject of a ruling issued in May by the European Court of Justice, would be much more broadly interpreted in a sweeping digital privacy law being discussed by European officials.

With a new parliament still assembling after recent European elections and a new European Commission taking over this year, the legislation’s prospects are difficult to predict. The recent court decision relates solely to search engines like Google and Bing, which is owned by Microsoft. But the proposed privacy legislation would affect any company or website that holds European customers’ digital information. The turmoil surrounding Google’s response to the European court decision could be multiplied and magnified when companies other than search engines – like social media providers and e-commerce sites – are compelled to respond to people’s requests.

“The scope of the new regulation will be much wider,” said Peter Church, an associate at the law firm Linklaters in London.

It is possible, of course, that if the legislation becomes law, it will provide clarity to a process that Google seems to be improvising.

In Friday’s turnabout, the company told The Guardian that several links to its articles had been reinstated in Google’s European search service after the newspaper complained. Some of the articles were from 2010 and concerned a soccer referee, now retired, who was accused of lying about why he had awarded a penalty kick during a match.

Critics said the episode highlighted a lack of transparency about how Google is complying with the court order as it works through a growing number of requests to remove information. The company has received 70,000 such requests.

Raegan MacDonald, the European policy manager in Brussels for the digital rights advocacy group Access, said it should not be Google’s role to decide what information is relevant.

Peter Barron, Google’s director of communications for Europe, said on a British radio program Friday that the company was going through a “learning process” about how to comply with the court’s decision.

The deleted links also included those to a BBC article from 2007 about E. Stanley O’Neal, former chief of Merrill Lynch, and his role in the losses the investment bank sustained during the financial crisis.

Under the court’s decision, people must first ask Google and other search engines for links to be removed. But the ruling did not provide guidance on how affected websites like those of The Guardian and the BBC could press search engines to reconsider a decision to remove links to specific articles.

“The court’s ruling is not supposed to deal with all these complications,” said Chris Forsyth, a technology lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London. Rather, that is the purpose of the legislation, he said.

source: Gedgets NDTV

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