Google admits to errors over Guardian ‘right to be forgotten’ link deletions


David Drummond, chief legal officer of internet search firm, says adjusting to EU rule on removing content is ‘work in progress’

Google has acknowledged that it “incorrectly” removed links to several Guardian articles last month and then reinstated them after complaints from people citing the “
right to be forgotten“.

Following a European court ruling, Google is required to remove links to “inadequate, irrelevent or … excessive” information from its search results in EU countries if the person to which the web page relates places a complaint, subject to a public interest test. But in a comment piece in the Guardian, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, acknowledged that the company, which opposes the ruling, was still working out the right way to implement the judgment, and had made some errors.

The Guardian was one of the first outlets to be notified that some of its content had been removed from some EU search results, receiving six notification that articles had been affected. Four of those articles were subsequently reinstated into search results by Google.

If complainants wish to challenge reinstatements they must do so through their country’s information commissioner’s office.

Drummond said Google disagreed with the ruling, but said the company respected “the court’s authority” and was “doing its very best to comply quickly and responsibly”.

He promised the public debate would affect how the company made its decisions on removing or reinstating content for the 250,000 requests it had received from more than 70,000 people.

“Of course, only two months in, our process is still very much a work in progress,” he wrote. “It’s why we incorrectly removed links to an article last week (since been reinstated). But the good news is that the ongoing, active, debate that’s happening will inform the development of our principles, policies and practices, in particular about how to balance one person’s right to privacy with another’s right to know.”

Drummond also announced that Google had set up an advisory council of experts to examine the “right to be forgotten” issue. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder and internet campaigner, will sit on the panel, as will Le Monde’s editorial director, Sylvie Kauffmann, and the UN special rapporteur Frank La  Rue.

The advisory council would take evidence from appropriate bodies and interest groups, as well as hold public meetings, Drummond said. It would produce a public report on some of the more difficult points concerning the “right to be forgotten”, including issues about spent criminal convictions and victims of abuse, as well as the wider societal implications of the court’s ruling.