Delisting on Google

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice established the “right to be forgotten,” i.e. the “right to delist,” allowing Europeans to ask search engines to delist information about themselves from search results.

Google must consider if the information in question is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”—and whether there is a public interest in the information remaining available in search results.

Understanding how Google make these types of decisions—and how people are using new rights like those granted by the European Court—is important. Since 2014, Google have provided information about “right to be forgotten” delisting requests plus anonymized examples of some of the requests Google have received

Between 2014 and 2017, there have been requests to delist several million URLs.  Roughly 43% of requests to delist have been enacted and the rest refused as not complying with the guidelines for delisting.

Evaluating Requests

Google assess each request on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, Google may ask the individual for more information. After a request is submitted to Google it undergoes a manual review and once a decision has been reached, the individual will receive an email notifying him or her of the decision and, if Google do not delist the URL, a brief explanation.

Reasons Google Don’t Delist

A few common material factors involved in decisions not to delist pages include

  • the existence of alternative solutions
  • technical reasons
  • duplicate URLs

Google may also determine that the page contains information which is strongly in the public interest. Determining whether content is in the public interest is complex and may mean considering many diverse factors, including—but not limited to—whether the content relates to the requester’s professional life, a past crime, political office, position in public life, or whether the content is self-authored content, consists of government documents, or is journalistic in nature.

Google also publish some of the requests in an anonymized manner to allow debate and comment on whether delisting should occur in each example.

Example Request 1: Google received a request from the Austrian Data Protection Authority on behalf of an Austrian businessman and former politician to delist 22 URLs, including reputable news sources and a government record, from Google Search.

Outcome: We did not delist the URLs given his former status as a public figure, his position of prominence in his current profession, and the nature of the URLs in question.

Example Request 2: Google received a request from an individual to delist several URLs from Google Search about his election as leader of a political movement and other political positions he held when he was a minor.

Outcome: Google delisted 13 URLs as he did not appear to be currently engaged in political life and was a minor at the time. Google did not delist 1 URL as the page referred to a different person who had the same name as the requester.

Example Request 3: Google received a court order directed to Google Inc. to delist from Google Search a blog post about a professional who was convicted for threatening people with a weapon on a city street.

Outcome: Google appealed the decision, but lost the appeal. Google delisted the blog post.

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