Google, Bing, Yahoo! and the European Union are playing a game of 20 Questions. Except that it's 26 questions, and it's no game. European Union privacy watchdogs had representatives from Google and other search engines on the hot seat Thursday over how, and if, they're implementing the EU's guidelines over Internet users' "right to be forgotten."
The EU wants Google, Yahoo! and Bing to set up a system that will manage requests to take down links to outdated or irrelevant information about search-engine users. To nudge the process along, the EU's national data-protection regulators met with representatives from the three search giants in Brussels on Thursday.
The regulators asked six questions orally and gave the three companies until next Thursday to answer 26 further questions submitted in writing.
The issue of the right to be forgotten has only been in the news for a couple of months. In May a European court ordered Google to delete links to information about a mortgage foreclosure after the party involved argued that the information had become irrelevant.
Christina Warren, senior tech analyst for Mashable.com, told us the questions are a way for the EU to figure out how to make guidelines that can be enforced -- but that they should have been asked before a ruling went into effect, not after.
"Google was able to choose its method of implementation," she said. "One could argue that any official guidelines won't be strong enough to protect EU citizens, because Google set the initial bar for what they would do themselves."
The questions asked during Thursday's meeting touched on such topics as the information the search engines request from a data subject before considering a delisting request; and whether Web site publishers are notified of delisting, and under which legal basis that notification is done.
The 26 questions calling for a written response were more specific. A report in The Wall Street Journal listed the questions as worded, and they included:
-- Do you ask for a proof of identify or some other form of authentication and if yes, what kind?
-- Do you have any automated process defining if a request is accepted or refused?
-- Will you create a database of all removal requests or removal agreements?
Google said at the meeting that to date it had received 91,000 delisting requests regarding 328,000 links to Web addresses, and that over half the requests had been granted. It has rejected just over 30 percent of the requests, and asked for more information on 15 percent. Bing and Yahoo! have received significantly fewer requests.
The information gathered at the meeting will be used to create guidelines for data protection authorities. The guidelines are expected before the end of the year.
But Warren believes the EU's priorities in this matter are already misplaced.
"One of the most difficult things about this law is that it doesn't appear that the regulators fundamentally understand the technology and what is entailed in indexing a site or a search query," she said. "I'm not sure if any of Google's answers will be able to convey the realities of how search engines work to the regulators, or if that will have any impact on how they say the implementations should work."
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2014-07-27 @ 4:18pm PT
I think that it is way past the 'thin end of the wedge' with the EU. Some idiot of a Commissioner or one of his cronies comes up with an idea and we all have to fall in line simply because they have the overall power. Democracy it is not.
Posted: 2014-07-27 @ 9:53am PT
That EU request is ridiculous. If an article in a newspaper is "out of date" do you delete that article on-line? If you want to be forgotten don't do anything newsworthy!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 2014-07-25 @ 4:37pm PT
EC questions reveal EC ignorance of how to harmonize the justice systems of twenty eight sovereign nations.
Two questions for EC Commissioners: 1) how long should it take to translate the proposed wording of guidelines by 28 nations to French and get the same meaning? (Hint not a month) 2) how long will it take for 28 national court systems to agree that the guidelines don't conflict with settled law in any of 28 countries? (Hint not a year)