Google Removal Request

The Google removal request is a way by which a user can ask Google to erase results from the SERP if they violate his or her personal rights. In May 2014, Google Inc. was requested by the European Court (the so-called “Google-judgment”), to provide such an option after the Spanish Data Protection Agency had filed suit against the Group. This removal request is not to be confused with an application in the Google Search Console, which allows you to get websites removed from the index.

Background

Google has been repeatedly criticized for its business practices particularly in Europe. For example, publishers have criticized the practice of showing excerpts from articles in the search results and call it infringement of copyrights. Especially since the Google Street View service has been launched, Google has been targeted for privacy violations and data protection.

In the meantime, a Spanish campsite operator tried to sue the search engine giant because when his company was entered as a search term, images of corpses were shown in the search results. This was because of a fire at that campsite many years earlier which had fatalities and Google now listed corresponding images next to the search results for the campsite.

The accumulation of such incidents in Spain and throughout Europe has repeatedly generated debates about the supremacy of Google as a search engine. There were also numerous prominent judgments which demanded Google to delete the search results in question. In many cases, it concerned the Suggest feature that offered proposals to complete ones search query. One prominent case was a suit filed by the ex-wife of former German President Wulff against Google.

Finally, the Spanish Data Protection Authority sued Google and won the case in May 2014. According to the judgment of the European Court, search engine providers are responsible if they process personal data that have been published on third party websites. As a result of this judgment, individuals now can require the operator of a search engine to remove search results that appear when their name is entered into the search field. The relevant results in the SERPs must violate the privacy rights of the person concerned to fulfill the condition for removal.

These requirements apply in accordance with the respective countries in which the Google search is used. The Group can therefore not escape from their responsibility by arguing that its company headquarters are in the US and personal data would be processed there.

How to file a removal request

Shortly after the judgment of the ECJ, a lot of media in Germany responded in order to provide recommendations for possible removal requests. In the meantime, Google responded by providing their own separate request form for the removal of personal data.

To successfully submit an application, the persons concerned must first provide their name or the name of their duly authorized representative and their email address. Next, the corresponding links must be specified. At the end you have to certify the accuracy of the information and provide a digital signature.

Consumers apparently got active right away to utilize Google’s removal request and the oft-quoted “right to be forgotten.” On the first day alone, Google received more than 12,000 applications.

Consequences for the search engine market

According to the judgment of the European Court, all search engine providers must be prepared for consumers applying for removal of search results that relate to their personal rights. Because this judgment does not apply just to Google, even if that is often perceived by the general public.

However, the judgment is applied to date only on the search results in the country concerned and there is no complete removal in other country versions. For example, if a German user wants to have links deleted that appear in reference to their name in google.de, these links may still show up when google.fr is used.

It will remain open how the European courts will act in the future, and what concessions regarding data protection the great web corporation has yet to make. But the ECJ ruling of May 2014 shows that the large web providers must be prepared for more criticism and limitations.

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