Google Hides 1M Pages in 'Right to be Forgotten' Battle

John Lister's picture

Google has removed more than a million web pages from its search index under European privacy guidelines. It's published detailed statistics on its handling of the "right to be forgotten."

The "right" is actually a set of legal guidelines established by the European Court of Justice and covering searches made within Europe. The idea is to balance the right to privacy with the right to freedom of expression.

It was sparked by a case where a man complained that searches for his name brought up a 1998 newspaper article about his house being foreclosed over a debt. Although the article was untrue, the man argued it was unfair for it to be so prominent on searches given it was so outdated (and he had since paid the debt).

Links Removed But Pages Stay

The guidelines don't affect websites themselves and don't require pages to be taken down. Instead, search engine operators must consider requests to remove results that link to pages with personal information that is "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive." Removing results only affects searches made by people in Europe. (Source:

Under the guidelines, the search company must take into account context such as how outdated the information is, whether it involved a serious legal offense, and whether the person is a public figure - in which case the expectation of privacy is lower. It's up to the search company how to respond to the request. If they refuse, the complainant can take the case to court in their respective country.

Google has now revealed that since May, 2014, it has received requests to remove a total of 2.4 million pages from its index. It agreed to do so in 43 percent of cases. (Source:

Public Figures Make a Third of Requests

Though the reasons for requests varied widely, a few topics were common. Just under a third involved personal information in directories and on social media sites. Just over a fifth covered newspaper articles and government documents that referred to court cases and other legal histories.

Of all the requests, 40 percent related to a minor, 21 percent involved a politician or government official, 14 percent were for other public figures and four percent to "private" adult citizens. The remaining 21 percent involved business and other corporate entities.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised Google has received so many requests? Is the system a fair balance between privacy and free speech? Does it make any difference that the actual page itself remains online?

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sytruck_8413's picture

To me my right to privacy is one thing and "free speech" is something else. Your right to Free Speech doesn't break my right to privacy. It would be nice to be able to log into Google and tell it to forget I ever existed. That being said what would commonly be public record anyway should be available.

It's mostly to late anyway. But something like the European system would be nice to have.

So if the "pages" are still there does that mean they can be found? IE hacked?

John Lister's picture

The web pages themselves are still online exactly as normal, so you can get to them by typing the address directly, following a link from another page, via another search engine (assuming it hasn't also removed the links), or via the search/links on the website that hosts the page. It's just that far fewer people find the page when it isn't on the major search engines.