When the European Union first put the “right to be forgotten” into effect, it didn’t really give search sites much help. Should search listings disappear simply because they’re embarrassing? What if you’re a notable figure? At last, though, there are some clearer answers. The European Commission has published guidelines that tell search providers how to handle your takedown requests. For the most part, the recommendations line up with what Google has been doing so far. Websites have to balance your privacy demands against the public’s rights; a search firm can pull details of your personal life, for instance, but it can refuse to hide criminal convictions or your official work record.
Europe’s Article 29 Working Party, the body comprised of data protection representatives from individual Member States of the European Union, has now published guidelines on the implementation of the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling, which was handed down by Europe’s top court back in May. The European Court of Justice ruling gives private individuals in Europe the right to request that search engines de-index specific URLs attached to search results for their name — if the information being associated with their name is inaccurate, outdated or irrelevant. The ruling does not generally apply to public figures, so requires search engines to weigh up requests against any public interest there might be to accessing the information in a name search de-listing request. Earlier this week the 29WP said it wanted the search de-listing ruling to extend to cover results on .com domains, not just European sub-domains. However Google, the major search engine in Europe, has been implementing the ruling only on sub-domains so far. So it remains to be seen whether the company will follow the guidance and extend de-listing to .com as well.