Finding web pages some people don’t want you to see.

The European Court of Justice has decided that citizens have a ‘right to be forgotten’ when there are web pages that are “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”. The results of that ruling are now being seen with Google removing links to certain web pages at the request of the people named on those pages.

Google has been receiving requests for links from their search engine to be removed. Now they are doing that in some cases, including links to article in major newspapers and even the BBC.

A 2007 article about Stan O’Neal, the former chair of Merrill Lynch is subject to a ‘right to be forgotten’ notice. Stories about a football referee Dougie McDonald, who admitted to lying about reversing a penalty. The list goes on and on.

The webmaster gets a notice from Google about the link removal but not the specific reason nor who asked for the removal. In the Stan O’Neal case it seems possible that Mr O’Neal didn’t make any request, instead it may be someone who left a comment on the page.

The EU court ruling pleases no one. The public hates it and the people asking for link removals are finding that it’s having the reverse effect by drawing more attention to the web pages they want forgotten.

Google hates the ruling but their reaction has been peculiar. They have implemented the court’s judgment, seemingly to show how poor the ruling is in practice. Other companies have ignored the ruling entirely.

Getting past EU censorship

For day-to-day searches the ‘right to be forgotten’ probably won’t make a difference. In any event, people can work around the EU judgment and anyone who doesn’t like some web pages.
Links not web pages

The ‘offending’ web pages aren’t deleted and you can still read them (see our links above). The ruling only applies to links from search engines.

If your search has results removed because of the EU ruling you may see this at the bottom of the search results:

“ Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.Learn more “

According to Google that does not necessarily mean that the results have been changed saying “We’re showing this notice in Europe when a user searches for most names, not just pages that have been affected by a removal.”
Just European search engines

Switch to a non-EU Google web site to do the same search. Google.com Google.ca Google.com.au google.pn or any other Google site outside the EU will give you unfiltered results for the same search.

The ruling only effects results when you use a European version of Google … for example google.co.uk google.fr or google.de etc.

If you type google.com without a Google account login, you’ll be taken to the relevant Google site for your current location (based on IP address). Many travelers will have noticed that happening.  On the bottom right of the Google home page there’s a link, usually to Google.com  that will take you to the ‘main’ page for your search.

For an unfiltered alternative go to Microsoft’s bing.com or the privacy conscious duckduckgo.com

The EU ruling applies to all search engines but only Google has implemented it … so far. Other companies may be forced to comply but for the moment they have not.  Hopefully Google’s actions will force EU lawmakers to devise a better and more transparent system.

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