Privacy victory, as Google removes 'right to be forgotten' content across EU

11 February 2016
By Jonathan Wilson
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Google: now officially more forgetful in the EU

Google: now officially more forgetful in the EU

Google has confirmed that it will hide content removed using the "right to be forgotten" ruling from more versions of its search engine, thus removing challenged content in more countries.

The current ruling only applies to versions of Google used within the EU, whose citizens can submit requests for information about them to be removed from search results. However, other users could still use an international version of Google and see the full list of unedited results.

Now, all successfully challenged results that have been removed will not appear on any version of the search engine, including Google.com, when they are being viewed from countries where the removal was approved. The change is set to be rolled out in the near future, although Google has not yet officially confirmed a date.

The new approach will be applied when a European IP address is detected, regardless of the version of Google they are using. Since the initial "right to be forgotten" ruling was made in 2014, Google has received more than 380,000 removal requests, with around 42 per cent of those requests being accepted.

The company has been under pressure from the French data protection authority to remove data from sites globally, threatening to fine the firm if it failed to comply.

Renate Samson, chief executive of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, welcomed the change.
 
"The move by Google to ensure 'right to be forgotten' across European versions of Google offers reassurance to the thousands of regular, ordinary citizens who have sought the right for inaccurate or out-of-date content about them to be blocked from Google's searches," she said.
 
"Whilst right to be forgotten remains a controversial issue, it is a key part of the new European General Data Protection Regulations set to be in place within the next couple of years. Google's move therefore is a necessary step in the direction of improved data protection."
 
Internet privacy is currently high on the agenda in the UK, with the government's so-called Snooper's Charter coming under fire from technology firms and individual rights advocates alike.

Now, a powerful committee of lawmakers examining the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill have said while they broadly support its aims in principle, significant changes must be made to the planned surveillance law which would - if left unchecked - hand UK authorities some of the most extensive monitoring capabilities in the Western world. The committee has made 86 recommendations for change.

"We think part of it is flawed and part of it needs to be looked at in greater detail," Paul Murphy, the committee chairman, told reporters.

This latest criticism of the bill follows similar comments earlier this week by a parliamentary committee, overseeing intelligence and security, which called for more work on the bill, saying it did not not sufficiently safeguard privacy and gave spies more powers than they need.
 
When the surveillance plan was first unveiled, in November 2015, it detailed sweeping new powers which would force technology firms to store details of every website people visited for a year, as well as spelling out the facility for UK spies to collect bulk data and hack into individuals' computers and smartphones.

The committee made special note of the requirement for internet service providers to store all "internet connection records" (ICRs) for a year, allowing the authorities to find out which websites people have visited, questioning the practicality, cost and security of storing all this data.
 
Global technology firms such as Google, Apple and Facebook have already expressed serious reservations about this aspect and also the bill's implications for encrypted services, penning a joint open letter to the UK government.
 
Ministers and intelligence chiefs say current surveillance laws are outdated, leaving the police and spies unable to keep up with technology used by terrorists and serious criminals.
 
The government and spy chiefs say there should be no dark spaces on the internet beyond their reach, but companies say forcing them to provide "backdoors" or to break their encryption services would weaken their own security measures.

A previous British bill, dubbed the "snoopers' charter", was ditched in 2014 amid widespread public opposition. The resurrection of a blanket surveillance bill has obliged campaigners to renew their challenge.
 
"Everyone in the UK - in fact, everyone around the world, given the global extent of many of the powers the UK government would have under the bill - needs to be worried about this legislation," said Sarah St.Vincent from the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington-based group advocating internet freedom.
 

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