Google Right To Be Forgotten Report Self-Serving Publicity Stunt, Consumer Watchdog Says; Group Says Privacy Right Should Be Adapted For United States, Not Just Europe

SANTA MONICA, CA – A Google-commissioned report advising that the Internet giant implement the right to be forgotten only in Europe is little more than a self-serving publicity stunt, Consumer Watchdog said today, adding that the important privacy protection should be implemented in the United States.

“The right to be forgotten is an important privacy protection in the digital age. It’s not censorship; it merely gives people some control over access to irrelevant information about them from the past,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director.  “Instead of trying to limit its scope, Google should be working to adapt the policy for the United States.”

In May the European Court of Justice ruled that a person has the right to request the removal of search engine links to information that is inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive.  The removal isn’t automatic if requested. There needs to be a balance between the individual’s privacy and public’s right to know in making a decision to remove a link.

Since May Google has only implemented the ruling on European Internet domains like Google.ie, Google.co.uk, Google.fr and Google.de. The advisory panel endorsed – though not unanimously – Google’s approach.

The Google panel’s recommendation and Google’s implementation are at odds with the position of the Article 29 Working Party, the organization of all European data protection authorities. The group has said the right should be applied to all Google Internet domains, including Google.com.

In its Transparency Report Google says it has received evaluated 769,858 URLS for removal and removed 257,973 or 40.3 percent of them. Here is an example of a link Google says it removed: A woman requested the removal of a link to decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name. Google removed the link from search results for her name.

Read Google’s Transparency Report about links removed here: https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/europeprivacy/?hl=en

“As Google’s own examples clearly show, removal won’t always happen, but the balance Google has found between privacy and the public’s right to know demonstrates the company can make the right to be forgotten work,” wrote Simpson. “Americans deserve the same right to be forgotten.  With Google’s repeated claims to care about privacy, the company should be ashamed that it’s not treating people on both sides of the Atlantic the same way.”

Read the Google Advisory Council right to be forgotten here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1UgZshetMd4cEI3SjlvV0hNbDA/view?pli=1

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Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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