Google Inc has launched a service through which European citizens can request that links to what they deem as objectionable material be taken off search results, the first step to comply with a court ruling affirming the "right to be forgotten."
The world's largest Internet search engine, which processes more than 90 percent of all Web searches in Europe, said on Thursday that it has made available a webform through which people can submit their requests, but stopped short of specifying when it would remove links that meet the criteria for being taken down.
Google also said it has convened a committee of senior Google executives and independent experts to try and craft a long-term approach to dealing with what's expected to be a barrage of requests from the region's roughly half-billion occupants.
“In implementing this decision, we will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information,” reads the webform that Google made available on Thursday.
Google says in the form that when evaluating requests, it will consider whether the results include outdated information about a person, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information, such as information about professional malpractice, criminal convictions and the public conduct of government officials.
The form includes space for users to submit objectionable links and a box for the person to explain why the link is "irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate."
To make a request, a person must submit a digital copy of an official identification, such as a valid driver's license, and select from a drop-down menu of 32 European countries the appropriate country whose law applies to the request.
The decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union places Google in a tricky position as it strives to interpret the EU's broad criteria for objectionable links, and to remove certain content from its search engine while preserving its popularity as a resource for users to find all manner of information.
Google will also face a logistical challenge in processing requests in various languages, some of which are in countries that Google does not even have operations in.
Failure to remove links that meet the EU's broad criteria for take-down can result in fines.
Since the ruling, Google has received thousands of removal requests, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Google has said it is disappointed with the EU ruling, and Executive