Google Inc is set to restrict search terms to a link to a Wikipedia article, in the first request under Europe’s controversial new “right to be forgotten” legislation to affect the 110 million-page online encyclopedia.
The identity of the individual requesting a change to Google’s search results has not been disclosed and may never be known, but it is understood the request will be put into effect within days. Google and other search engines can only remove the link — as with other “right to be forgotten” requests, the Web page itself will remain on Wikipedia.
In May, the European Court of Justice ruled that citizens could ask search engines to remove particular links from results for a search made under their name if the material was deemed to be out of date, no longer relevant or excessive.
Google has already begun to implement the ruling, with tens of thousands of links removed from its European search results to sites ranging from the BBC to the London-based Daily Express. Among the data now “hidden” from Google is an article about the 2009 conversion to Islam of Adam Osborne, brother of British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
Jimmy Wales, who cofounded Wikipedia in 2001 and has overseen its transformation into the sixth most-visited site on the Internet, said: “It’s completely insane and it needs to be fixed.”
Wales is one of 10 members of an advisory council formed by Google to decide how to handle take-down requests. The council will travel around Europe, with a first hearing scheduled in Madrid on Sept. 9, before writing guidance for Google and other search engines, such as Microsoft Corp’s Bing, on implementing the new law.
A test case brought by Spaniard Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who wanted a 1998 article about his home being repossessed removed from search results, was what triggered the change in legislation.
“In the case of truthful, non-defamatory information obtained legally, I think there is no possibility of any defensible ‘right’ to censor what other people are saying,” Wales has said.
On Thursday last week, Google revealed that France, with 17,500 requests, had made more demands for changes to search results than any other European nation. Germany had made 16,500 requests, while 12,000 requests originated in the UK.
The company’s privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, revealed that it had refused about 32 percent of the request, asked for more information on 15 percent and removed 53 percent.