Google has launched a new system allowing web users to request information about them to be removed, complying with a decision by a European court.
European users who feel outdated information available on the Internet could have a damaging effect on their lives or breach their privacy can now fill in and submit an online form requesting removal of specific information.
The form is available to Europeans from the support section of the Google legal site. Users then list the URL addresses they would like to see removed from searches linked to them.
The form asks for personal information as well as proof of ID in order to prevent any fraudulent requests being submitted.
"To comply with the recent European court ruling, we've made a webform available for Europeans to request the removal of results from our search engine,” Google’s spokeswoman confirmed.
"The court's ruling requires Google to make difficult judgments about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right to know. We're creating an expert advisory committee to take a thorough look at these issues. We'll also be working with data protection authorities and others as we implement this ruling."
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, and Luciano Floridi, a professor of ethics and philosophy at Oxford University have been confirmed as working on Google’s committee to address the legal and ethical issues stemming from the ruling of the European Court of Justice.
Google said that requests concerning information considered to be in the public interest will be rejected.
The European Court of Justice decision granting Internet users in Europe the right to be forgotten by search engines has sparked a debate over the need for balance between the "right to be forgotten" and the "right to know" and freedom of expression.
Google’s co-founder Larry Page told the Financial Times: "I think it's a question of the broad things you might value; there's no way to get it perfect. There's always going to be some harm. You can't have perfect rights for everything."
In the two weeks since the ruling by the European Court of Justice, Google said it has received "a few thousand" requests for data to be removed from searches. In the UK, a former politician seeking re-election and a convicted paedophile both made requests to Google to have links to news stories about them removed.
Google has 500 million users in Europe, and the company has come under scrutiny, alongside social networks like Facebook, for using the wealth of information they have on users to drive advertising. However, Page said it felt that it was better than having government in control of such large amounts of data.
"In general, having the data present in companies like Google is better than having it in the government with no due process to get that data, because we obviously care about our reputation. I'm not sure the government cares about that as much. We have a worldwide reputation we're trying to protect," he said.
Mike Short from the Institution of Engineering and Technology commented on the announcement: “While the Institution of Engineering and Technology recognises the rights of owners’ data to be forgotten where legally permissible, in practice such a process could prove costly, complex and bound up with risks that may end in lengthy legal disputes.
“Furthermore, it signals the end of a ‘worldwide’ web when different approaches are being taken to privacy in North America and Europe.”