Now you can Google yourself out of history

Google is starting to accept requests from Europeans who want to erase unflattering information
Google is starting to accept requests from Europeans who want to erase unflattering information
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Technology giant Google has launched a new system that allows web users to request information about them be removed from search results in the wake of the “right to be forgotten” ruling.

Two weeks ago, a European court ruled that internet users in Europe had the right to request information that they deemed damaging or a breach of privacy be removed from the results of searches with services like Google.

The ruling has sparked a debate over the need for balance between the “right to be forgotten” and the “right to know” and freedom of expression.

The California-based search engine has now introduced an online form that enables web users to submit requests for information to be removed.

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.

A Google spokesman said: “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.

“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.

Google also confirmed that requests would be rejected if information was felt to be “in the public interest”.

The new advisory committee has been set up as Google acknowledges this is a new process, and the company said it is keen to seek opinion from across different industries in understanding the new process.

Co-founder Larry Page said: “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.”

The company, which earlier this week unveiled a self-driving car, said it will now convene the committee to look at the issues surrounding the court ruling, with confirmed members including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, and Luciano Floridi, a professor of ethics and philosophy at Oxford University.

Google said it will seek input from other industries, including journalism and law, as part of the committee’s work.

Mr Wales is known to have strong views on the ruling, calling it “astonishing” shortly after it was announced, and said it was “one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I’ve ever seen”.

He later tweeted: “When will a European Court demand that Wikipedia censor an article with truthful information because an individual doesn’t like it?”

On joining the committee, Prof Floridi said: “I’m delighted to join the international advisory committee established by Google to evaluate the ethical and legal challenges posed by the internet. It is an exciting initiative, which will probably require some hard and rather philosophical thinking.”

Web privacy is becoming a growing issue in the wake of surveillance stories and the increased presence of technology within our daily lives - gathering personal data about us.

Earlier this year, the creator of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said that governments and internet companies needed to work together to create a “bill of rights” for all internet users to protect them online.