Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and a panel of experts held the first of seven public sessions yesterday to help the company define how it should enforce a new “Right to be Forgotten” under which Europeans can seek the removal of seemingly irrelevant or embarrassing search results.
The company has received more than 120,000 requests for takedowns of 457,000 links since a May court ruling enabled Europeans to ask for the removal of embarrassing personal information that pops up with a search of their names. “We need to balance the right to information against the rights of privacy,” Schmidt said before he and other panel members heard testimony from Spanish privacy and right-to-know experts. While the company has said some decisions to remove or deny removal of search results are relatively easy to assess, the meetings across Europe are being held to help Google determine how to address European cases that fall into gray areas.
They include removal requests by former politicians criticized for their policies, criminals who don’t want their convictions known, bad reviews for architects or teachers, and comments people wrote about themselves that they now regret. Google said yesterday it could not immediately provide information on how many requests for takedowns have been approved and how many have been denied but would release the information soon. European regulators expect to release guidelines late next week on applying the EU court decision, said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, president of the French privacy regulator CNIL and leader of the European umbrella group.
Falque-Pierrotin said coherent guidelines are needed, but privacy regulators declined an invitation to join Google’s panels. “Google asked us to join as experts. We are not experts — we are regulators,” she said from Paris. “We also want to hear other points of view and we will have our own consultation process.”