Academics Take Aim at Google Over ‘Right-To-Be-Forgotten’

The pressure is continuing to mount on Google over how it handles European "right to be forgotten" (RTBF) requests. This time the criticism is coming from academia. A group of 80 leading academics from the United States and Europe this week wrote an open letter to the search giant demanding greater transparency.

In their open letter, the academics state that the public should be better informed about how much and what kind of information is being removed from search results, as well as the sources being delisted, which requests fail and in what proportion, and what GoogleEUs guidelines are in terms of striking the balance between individual privacy and freedom of expression.

"The vast majority of these decisions face no public scrutiny, though they shape public discourse," according to the letter. "WhatEUs more, the values at work in this process will/should inform information policy around the world. A fact-free debate about the right to be forgotten is in no oneEUs interest."

Not a Monster

This week marks one year since the European Court of Justice ruled that Internet search engines must remove information deemed "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" from their search results. Since then, Google said it has processed 253,617 requests to remove 920,258 links, and approved just over 40 percent of those requests. On Wednesday, the British Information Commissioner's Office said it was discussing 48 right to be forgotten cases in which it wanted Google to revise its decisions.

We reached out to Steve Wilson, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, who told us the way Google behaves going forward could alleviate anxiety over the issue.

"Reasonable people can disagree about how much of the RTBF arbitration process should fall on the search engine companies, but [Google is] not turning out to be the monster people feared at first," Wilson said....

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