As the controversy continues over a new law that lets people delete Google listings, the company’s head lawyer offered a view from inside the company.

Google is unsure how to apply “very vague and subjective tests” to the more than 70,000 removal requests that have landed on its doorstep in the wake of a recent court ruling, according to the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond.

In a Guardian article titled “We need to talk about the right to be forgotten,” Drummond sheds new light on a controversial legal process that lets EU citizens order Google to remove search listings they dislike. Drummond described who is coming out of the woodwork to demand takedowns, and the dilemma Google faces:

former politicians wanting posts removed that criticise their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret). In each case someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue that it should be out in the open.

According to Drummond, the scale and subtlety of the process means that Google is now reviewing each removal request on an individual basis. Under the terms of the European Court of Justice’s court ruling in May, Europeans have a right to delete search results that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive” — but the court provided little guidance as to what exactly that means. And while there’s a “journalistic exception,” search engines like Google can’t invoke it.

“It’s a bit like saying the book can stay in the library but cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue,” according to Drummond, who notes that the requests so far cover more than a quarter of a million web pages.

While stating that Google disagrees with the court ruling, Drummond adds that it’s “hard not to empathise with some of the requests that we’ve seen,” citing requests from an innocent man to remove stories about a crime, and one from a mother requesting the removal of links to stories about her abused daughter.

It’s perhaps significant that Drummond chose the Guardian to publish his piece. Last week, Google removed Guardian stories about a dishonest referee from its search results, which led some to suggest that the company was deliberately drumming up controversy to call attention to the problems with the court ruling (it has since restored the articles).

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings


Community guidelines
Saturday, August 30, 2014
you are commenting using your account. Sign out / Change

Comment using:

Or comment as a guest

Be sure to review our Community Guidelines. By continuing you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.


  1. Reblogged this on Technology | Digital | Information Innovations and commented:
    The recent EU’s ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten’ is indicative of the scale of one of the toughest internet and information issues to be addressed; that of privacy and trust

  2. Ronan Quinn Friday, July 11, 2014

    Reblogged this on Marketing REDS and commented:
    This will be interesting news for the Data Commissioner Billy Hawkes in Ireland. It looks like this story will roll on for some time to come!

  3. It does raise some good questions.

  4. Personally, there is always going to be a different, but strong political views from other people with regard to government, state, city, and local events occurring within any type of society.

    Similar in nature to inaccurate or outdated person information housed within any credit reporting agency; the FCRA, [Fair Credit Reporting Act] prohibits a reporting agency to disclose to a consumer “inaccurate” or “outdated” personal information.

    Laws are intended to govern and protect its countrymen from deprivation of citizenship or liberty; or to say in layman terms, to conduct the policy, actions, and affairs of [a state, organization, or people]. Interesting story.

  5. A Ch0w, sneeze Saturday, July 12, 2014

    This is just a sign of things to come. The next logical step is to build a firewall so that the book can effectively be taken “out of the library” by court order whether the library is in your jurisdiction or not.