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Google to remove search results in Europe after ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Google must remove certain information about people who request that their names not appear in searches. Dubbed the "right to be forgotten" ruling, the information to be removed only affects internet searches conducted in Europe.

In response, Google has scheduled seven public meetings to take place across Europe, from September to November, to discuss the issue. The meeting will be chaired and administered by a council comprised of Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales as well as former privacy officials and former judges. Google aims to explore how the "right to be forgotten" and the public's right to access information affect each other and how they should be counterbalanced. Some believe this demonstrates goodwill on Google's part, others simply see it as a public relations stunt. Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of CNIL, France's data protection body, said the meetings are motivated by getting good press.

"They 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," Falque-Pierrotin told Reuters.

The European Commission has welcomed the meetings. However it is up to the data protection regulators of each nation to ensure proper enforcement of the ruling.

Since mid-July approximately 91,000 requests to remove approximately 328,000 pages have been received. Google announced that it has approved 50% of them but did not disclose how many have been processed so far. Most requests are for the removal of references to criminal trials, bullying articles and embarrassing photos.

Google removes BBC news stories
Among the articles removed already are 12 BBC stories. The stories were diverse in nature, ranging from an argument about a lost dog to an article about bombs made in Ireland. While the BBC was notified as to which articles were removed, Google did not reveal who requested their removal. Other BBC news stories removed concerned a British woman that managed one of Europe's biggest prostitution rings. Another discussed an individual mockingly nicknamed "the idiot car thief." The car thief's lawyer had publicly referred to him as an idiot thus giving him the name. 

The notices of removal sent to the BBC from Google explained that the web pages would not appear in search results that used search criteria based on names or other personal identifiers. Google also explained that in some cases, the web pages removed did not discuss the affected people primarily, but instead had references to them in comments sections below the main content of the pages.

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