A year ago, the European Court of Justice ruled that people could ask Google to remove links that came up in a search for their name.
The “right to be forgotten” decision was a frustrating one for Google, but a triumph for online privacy. Since the ECJ’s ruling, Google has received 253,617 requests to remove 920,258 links, the Telegraph reports. The company has removed just over 40 percent of these links across Europe.
In the UK, Google has had 32,076 requests to take down 126,571 links, and has approved 37.5 percent.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the easy cases are dealt with by a team of lawyers, paralegals, and engineers. It’s only the difficult cases that are passed up the line to a team of Google executives.
An easy case might have come from a woman who has had a picture of her sunbathing topless while on holiday published without her permission, or might include old reports of petty theft. The WSJ report recalled a more difficult case involving a German national convicted in the U.S. of a sex crime that occurred when he was 16. The man’s name was published in American news, but not in Germany. Google decided to take the link down.
The ECJ’s ruling didn’t give Google much guidance on what kind of requests should be accepted, beyond saying that search results including “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” information should be removed.
The tech company has decided internally that public figures get less leeway than ordinary people. Results related to crimes that were committed a long time ago, and have therefore been removed from criminal records, are more likely to be taken down. But the results aren’t removed from Google altogether.
Over the last year, Google has pulled links down from Google.fr and Google.co.uk—but not Google.com. This means that links removed from domains in Europe can be found through its U.S. site. Europe’s privacy regulators don’t think this is enough to comply with the EU court ruling, and have called on Google to extend the right to be forgotten globally.
Ultimately, EU regulators and search engines alike are still struggling with the balance between people’s personal privacy and the public right to information.