Google Swamped with Take Down Requests Following Hallmark EU Court Ruling; Disappointed

By @ibtimesau on
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The Google signage is seen at the company's offices in New York January 8, 2013. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Google, the world's No. 1 Internet search company, has got its hands busy attending to take down requests following a hallmark EU court ruling on Wednesday that said the firm must heed to users' requests to delete information that are "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant."

As expected, Google said the decision ruling was "disappointing," a Bloomberg report noted.

The decision of the European Union's top court, which affects 500 million citizens from the region, cannot be also appealed.

"There's many open questions," Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said on Wednesday at the company's annual shareholder meeting when asked about the ruling and its implications on Google's operations.

"A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know. From Google's perspective that's a balance," Schmidt said. "Google believes having looked at the decision, which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong."

The EU court slapped Google the ruling based on the case of a Spanish man who wanted Google to delete a 16-year-old newspaper article about his house being auctioned off because he failed to pay the corresponding taxes.

However, Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at the George Washington University and head of the National Constitution Center, told Business Insider the decision did not explicitly state which take-down requests can be considered legitimate.

At first glance, the ruling would look to favour taking down vital information of public interest, such as those of politicians. But because failure to heed "right to be forgotten" can result in fines, search engines may be removing more links than necessary to avoid liability, Rosen said, which simply put, could undermine freedom of speech.

"The principle that you have a right to be forgotten is a laudable one, but it was never intended to be a way for people to rewrite history," Emma Carr, acting director of the British group Big Brother Watch, told Bloomberg. "Search engines do not host information, and trying to get them to censor legal content from their results is the wrong approach."

Big Brother Watch added that "removing personal information should be tackled at the source, not through intermediaries such as Google."

The ruling issued by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice is binding on all 28 EU member countries. It involves all search engine owners, such as Bing and Yahoo, not just Google.

According to StatCounter global statistics, Google is Europe's dominant search engine, capturing 93 per cent of the market, followed by Microsoft Corp's Bing at 2.4 per cent and Yahoo Inc at 1.7 per cent.

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