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Google Will Further Block Some European Search Results

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Despite Google’s renewed efforts to appease European privacy concerns, it remains unclear whether the company’s actions will be enough to head off the continuing legal disputes from Europe’s national data protection authorities. Credit Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Google is about to change how people view its search results in Europe.

The American technology giant will soon remove certain disputed links from all of its domains, including Google.com, when people in Europe use its online search engine, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The links to be removed are those that people have successfully petitioned Google or a national regulator to have taken down because of privacy concerns.

The change, which will come into force by early next month, comes as Google fends off claims that it does not respect Europe’s tough privacy rules.

The move also follows the so-called right-to-be-forgotten decision from Europe’s highest court. That ruling allows anyone with connections to Europe to ask search engines like Google and the Bing service of Microsoft to remove links about them, under certain conditions.

Google has fought to limit the legal decision to its European search sites like Google.de in Germany. But many of the region’s data protection regulators, particularly in France, have demanded that the company extend the privacy ruling across its worldwide operations, including the removal of links from non-European search sites like Google.com.

To forestall mounting legal disputes, and potential fines, Google has now informed Europe’s national privacy authorities that it will start removing such links from all of its global domains when they are viewed within the European Union.

As part of the change, when someone succeeds in asking Google to remove a link for legitimate privacy reasons, the company will take it down from its European domains and from all of its global sites that can be used from the country where the request was submitted, the person said.

In practice, that would mean a successful request from someone in Spain, for example, would lead to the removal of the link from Google’s European online search domains, and from all of its non-European sites — including Google.com — accessible from that specific country. Search results for individuals outside the European Union will not be affected, and links on Google’s non-European domains will still be accessible from other European countries.

Despite Google’s renewed efforts to appease European privacy concerns, it remains unclear whether the company’s actions will be enough to head off the continuing legal disputes from Europe’s national data protection authorities, who want Google to apply the right-to-be-forgotten ruling across its global operations.

The company has said, for example, that only a small fraction of its European users view search results from non-European domains. And since the right-to-be-forgotten decision took effect in May 2014, Google has rejected roughly 60 percent of the 386,000 requests from individuals to remove links, according to the company’s transparency report.

Elsa Trochet-Macé, a spokeswoman for the French privacy authority, said on Thursday that Google had informed Europe’s data protection regulators last month about the coming changes to its search results, but that the French agency had not yet decided whether they meant that Google now complied with Europe’s privacy rules.

“We’re now analyzing the new changes,” Ms. Trochet-Macé said.

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NYT > Technology

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