Search giant Google said it is increasing the number of Web sites it will censor under the European Union’s "right to be forgotten" law. Under the law citizens in that region can demand that Google remove search results if they are outdated, irrelevant or not found to be in the public interest.
The expanded right to be forgotten rules will apply to Google search sites around the world, the company said in blog post on its Web site. Google will close a loophole that in some cases allows people in European countries to view search results that have otherwise been deleted under the law.
Until now, EU citizens could still see the censored search results when they searched on the main Google site, google.com, as opposed to a national version of the site, such as google.fr.
Two years ago the Europe's Court of Justice ordered search engines to remove certain listings and links on their indexes. Google fought the order, maintaining that it amounted to censorship of the Internet, but the ruling prevailed.
Google obeyed the letter of the ruling by agreeing to dump some links from its EU-based search sites -- but only from nation-specific search sites, not from its primary Google site.
The search giant's recent decision has come following increasing pressure from data protection authorities in Europe. Google will now use geolocation signals, such as IP addresses, to restrict access to delisted URLs on all of its search domains.
Those newly restricted domains will include google.com, at least when those domains are accessed from the country of the person requesting the removal. The company will also apply the change retroactively to all delistings that it has already executed under the European Court ruling.
"Let’s say we delist a URL as a result of a request from John Smith in the United Kingdom," said Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, in a blog post. "Users in the UK would not see the URL in search results for queries containing [john smith] when searching on any Google search domain, including google.com. Users outside of the U.K. could see the URL in search results when they search for [john smith] on any non-European Google search domain."
Rights of Users
The company said that the additional layer of delisting enables Google to provide the enhanced protections required by European regulators while also upholding the rights of users in other countries to have access to lawfully published information.
Google can still decline any request it receives to remove links from its search results. It's then up to the individual making the request to take the complaint to his national data protection regulator within the EU. The regulator’s decision can then be disputed in the courts by either the requesting party or Google.