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Over 170,000 Google searches altered in attempt to ‘forget’

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Google gives full details of 'right to be forgotten' requests, with 41.8 per cent of removal requests approved across the EU

Advertising giant Google has approved one third of all ‘right to be forgotten’ requests from the UK, with more than 18,000 people asking it to censor search results relating to their names. People in the UK requested Google remove more than 60,000 URLs from search results, the third highest in the EU.

Google’s requirement to remove certain search results stems from a European Court ruling in May 2014. It states that links to irrelevant and outdated data could be removed from search results on request, with Google bearing the brunt of the work. Google has since been inundated by nearly 500,000 removal requests from more than 146,000 EU citizens.

The figures come from Google’s updated transparency report detailing requests made by individuals, companies and governments for access to or removal of data from Google services. Google revealed that 35.4 per cent of all removal requests from the UK were successful with 18,460 search results expunged. The company said that 64.6 per cent (33,699 URLs) were not removed.

In Germany and France the number of successful removal requests outnumbered unsuccessful requests. In Germany 53 per cent (39,889) of removal requests led to URLs being removed from search results, while in France 51.1 per cent (36,513) of requests were approved.

Across all EU countries Google approved 41.8 per cent of removal requests with 171,183 URLs being censored. The company also revealed the sites most affected by URL removal requests. Facebook was top with 3.353 URLs removed, with YouTube (2,397) and (1,412) also in the ‘top 10’.

For the first time Google provided examples of successful and unsuccessful removal requests. In one case a former clergyman asked Google to remove two links to articles covering an investigation of sexual abuse accusations while in his professional capacity. Google did not remove the pages from search results relating to his name.

In another case a man asked Google to remove links to a news summary of a local magistrate’s decision that included his guilty verdict. Google cited the UK Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and noted that the conviction had been spent. The pages were removed from search results for the man’s name.

The EU has previously criticised Google over its approach to right to be forgotten requests. Concerns have been raised that the search engine isn’t implementing the ruling correctly and that people are easily able to view uncensored versions of search results by using non-EU versions of Google.

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