Most Google de-listing requests are from everyday folk, leaked data shows

Few requests are from politicians and other high-profile people

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt (center) and Google legal office David Drummond (right of Schmidt) during the Madrid Right to be Forgotten meeting

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt (center) and Google legal office David Drummond (right of Schmidt) during the Madrid Right to be Forgotten meeting

Newly leaked figures reveal that the vast majority of people who exercised their right to be "forgotten" by Google's services in Europe are everyday members of the public, with just 5 percent of requests coming from criminals, politicians and high-profile public figures.

Europe's highest court affirmed last year that people have the right to ask Google to remove certain results from its search engine, on the grounds that the information might be outdated or otherwise unfairly cast them in a negative light.

Google has protested the decision, arguing that removing links requires "difficult value judgments" and can go against the public interest. It has pointed to "former politicians wanting posts removed that criticize their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret)."

The figures suggest that requests from those first two categories, at least -- politicians and serious criminals -- have been minimal.

The Guardian newspaper discovered the numbers hidden in the source code for an archived version of Google's transparency report. The information has since been removed.

Google's original report provided the number of requests received and granted, but did not describe the nature of the requests in detail.

According to the Guardian, of the nearly 220,000 requests received as of March, more than 95 percent came from everyday citizens throughout Europe wanting links to private and personal information removed.

The requests included a woman whose name appeared in prominent news articles after her husband died, while another sought the removal of her address, The Guardian said. Another request came from an individual who contracted HIV a decade ago.

The European court ruling said Google and other search engines should consider carefully whether information people want removed is irrelevant or outdated, and remove links unless there are compelling reasons not to do so, such as when the information might serve the public interest.

The leaked figures suggest Google is adhering to those principles. The company granted requests from everyday citizens at a higher frequency than those related to political or public figures or serious crimes. Google has granted nearly half of all private and personal requests, while for information tied to political and public figures, it granted less than a quarter of them.

In total, Google has received more than 280,000 requests to remove links since Europe's top court required Google and other search providers to do so last May.

Google still has complicated issues to weigh in determining whether information tied to requests from everyday people might still serve the public interest. But the numbers give an indication that it's not primarily criminals and politicians who want to use the ruling to erase the past.

A Google spokesman, in a statement, said the company has aimed to be as transparent as possible about its right to be forgotten decisions.

"The data The Guardian found in our Transparency Reports source code does of course come from Google, but it was part of a test to figure out how we could best categorize requests," he said. The test was discontinued in March because the data was not reliable enough for publication, he said, but the company is working on ways to improve its transparency reporting.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitysocial mediaprivacyinternetGooglesearch enginesInternet-based applications and services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?