Sat, Jul 26, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Regulators probe Google over EU data protection

Reuters, BRUSSELS

Google Inc’s handling of “right to be forgotten” requests from European citizens came under fire by regulators after the company restricted the removal of Internet links to European sites only, a person familiar with the matter said.

Regulators quizzed Google over its decision to remove search results only from its European search engines such as google.co.uk, which means that anyone can easily access the same information by switching to the widely used google.com, said the source, who was present at the meeting.

The EU’s top court in May ruled that people have the right to request that years-old personal information that is no longer relevant be removed from Internet search results.

Google has so far approved more than half of the roughly 90,000 incoming requests, sought additional information in about 15 percent of cases, and rejected about 30 percent of them, according to a source close to the company.

European data protection authorities on Thursday met executives from Google, Yahoo Inc and Microsoft Corp, which operates the Bing search engine, to discuss the implementation of the landmark ruling.

The search engine operators were also asked to provide more information by the end of the month on their implementation of the ruling, the source said.

The information would then be used to form a set of guidelines to be drafted by regulators to help them deal with complaints from citizens over a search engine’s refusal to remove a link.

A draft set of guidelines could be ready by mid-September, the source said.

Given that Google has already received over 90,000 requests, EU regulators are keen to ensure they adopt a coherent approach that fits in with the 28 different data protection regimes in place across the bloc.

Privacy regulators can take Google to court if it refuses to meet their demands, as happened in Spain where the “right to be forgotten” ruling originated.

Privacy experts say Google’s removal of results from only European domains effectively defeats the purpose of the ruling.

“Google has claimed that the decision is restricted to localized versions of Google,” said Ashley Hurst, a partner at Olswang, a law firm. “There appears to be no basis for that claim at all.”

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