Google addresses 'right to be forgotten'

9 September 2014

EUROPE: Google, the internet giant, today begins a series of meetings across Europe in which it will discuss the issues raised by the so-called 'right to be forgotten' ruling issued by the European Court of Justice earlier this year.

Since the court decided in May that people could in certain circumstances ask Google to remove links to them from its search engine, the company has had more than 90,000 such requests and has acceded to around half of these.

The first meeting, in Madrid, will see a ten-strong advisory panel, including Google executives Eric Schmidt and David Drummond and eight people from outside the organisation, hear input from experts as it seeks how best to balance an individual's right to be forgotten with the public's right to information.

Drummond, Google's general counsel, has previously spoken of the difficulty of interpreting the court's "very vague and subjective tests" on what information is in the public interest and shouldn't be removed.

The European Commission welcomed the meetings, with spokesman Michele Cercone telling Bloomberg EU governments were discussing the right to be forgotten as part of new data-protection rules.

Others were more sceptical, however, regarding the meetings as having more to do with PR than anything else.

"They [Google] want to be seen as being open and virtuous, but they handpicked the members of the council, will control who is in the audience, and what comes out of the meetings," Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of the French Internet Rights Forum, told Reuters.

Simon Davies, a privacy advocate and an associate director of the enterprise unit at the London School of Economics, was similarly cynical. "The meetings are a cross between a lobbying exercise and a brazen publicity stunt," he said, adding that "the process appears to be fundamentally skewed against privacy and in favour of publication rights".

After Madrid, meetings will take place over the following seven weeks in Rome, Paris, Warsaw, Berlin, London and Brussels.

Data sourced from BBC, Reuters, Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff