Google has extended the scope of its “right to be forgotten” removals to cover all of its global search sites, in a bid to appease privacy regulators.
The search giant previously removed links if a user request was successful, but just from its European homepages. That meant the offending links could still be found if users visited Google.com, for example.
Google is now shaping up to close that loophole, although only for users inside Europe, according to The Guardian.
The “right to be forgotten” ruling remains a controversial topic.
Privacy campaigners believe it is correct that an individual is able to request the removal from the web of information which is outdated or no longer relevant.
However, Google and others argue that doing so hinders freedom of speech and the free flow of information online, as well as being a costly and time consuming business.
Still, the search giant has been bound by a 2014 European Court of Justice ruling to respond to such removal requests, 42% of which it says it accepts, according to the report.
Its latest decision to expand the scope of those removals comes after a threat made in September last year by the French data protection authority that it would fine the search giant if it didn’t do so.
Google will apparently now check the searcher’s IP address and if they reside in the same country as someone who has made a successful “right to be forgotten” request, they will not be able to find the offending links on any Google search page accessed from there.
The news was greeted with dismay in some quarters.
Former Gartner fellow and chief evangelist at MetricStream, French Caldwell, argued that this places even more power into the hands of Google to effectively decide whether individuals can hide from their past or not.
“Google isn’t a court and it isn’t a government, but we’re giving it executive and judicial powers to decide what information should or should not be available,” he argued. “The truth is, Google is already deciding what’s important online. Its search results are based on a user’s profile and behaviors; that’s power enough right there.”
Greg Hanson, EMEA vice president at Informatica, argued that this growing demand for stronger privacy protections, and the coming EU General Data Protection Regulation, mean organizations must have clear, demonstrable plans to manage and protect information.
“The right to be forgotten mandate can only be enforced if companies know where within their data stores personal data resides so that they have the capacity to remove it upon request,” he added.