Google’s finding that a lot of people have things they’d rather others forget about. In just about the first month and half that it was accepting requests for links to be removed under Europe’s controversial new “right to be forgotten law,” Google says that it received over 91,000 submissions, asking that over 328,000 links be removed. Google doesn’t say exactly how many of those requests it’s fulfilled — and it sounds as though it hasn’t even gotten to take a look at all of them yet either but it does say that of those that it’s looked at, just over half of the links have been accepted and removed.
The transparency comes in a letter Google sent today to a group of European data protection agencies that requested information on how it was responding to these removal requests. Google’s answers aren’t particularly enlightening, largely detailing how its request form works. Google doesn’t, for instance, explain precisely how it determines what is an irrelevant link — which wouldn’t legally have to be removed — as opposed to a relevant link, which would have to be removed.
Google doesn’t criticize the practice in the letter either, despite making its opposition to the right to be forgotten law evident in the past. It does, however, note that it has had some trouble in determining links’ relevance, because it’s largely relying on information submitted by the person asking for a removal. Google explains that requesters might fail to include new information that could make what would otherwise look like an outdated link appear relevant again. “An example would be a request to remove an old article about a person being convicted of a number of crimes in their teenage years, which omits that the old article has its relevance renewed due to a recent article about that person being convicted for similar crimes as an adult,” Google writes.
Otherwise, the remaining trouble appears to rest with removal requests filed by people who simply don’t understand how the form works. Some don’t provide enough information. Others have asked that incorrect links be removed — Google cites “facebook.com,” as an example.
Google’s figures only represent right to be forgotten requests up to July 18th. The figures also reveal that around half of the requests are coming through just three countries: France, Germany, and the UK. The full breakdown from Google’s letter is below:
- Around 17,500 requests have been made under French law (as chosen by the requester in the webform), involving around 58,000 URLs.
- Around 16,500 requests have been made under German law, involving around 57,000 URLs.
- Around 12,000 requests have been made under UK law, involving around 44,000 URLs.
- Around 8,000 requests have been made under Spanish law, involving around 27,000 URLs.
- Around 7,500 requests have been made under Italian law, involving around 28,000 URLs.
- Around 5,5000 requests have been made under Dutch law, involving around 21,000 URLs.