Google Sets Series Of ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Data Protection Meetings

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Google said the meetings are intended to help it deal with ‘right to be forgotten’ requests, but others see a PR stunt

Google is to hold the first of a series of meetings in Madrid on Tuesday to discuss privacy issues following a court ruling in May that enforced citizens’ “right to be forgotten”.

The internet giant, which holds more than 80 percent search share in Europe, has said it is struggling with thousands of requests per month to remove a variety of links from its search results, including criminal records and embarrassing photos. The meetings, to be held in seven European capitals, are aimed to generate guidance the company can follow in processing the requests.

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Thousands of requests

As of mid-July, Google said it had received more than 91,000 requests to delete a combined total of 328,000 links under the ruling. Google said it had removed 53 percent of the links.

Google is obliged to remove links if the information they provide is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”, according to the ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The May ruling was triggered by a dispute between Google and the Spanish data-protection authority over a request to remove a link relating to Mario Costeja Gonzalez.

The panel at the meetings is appointed by Google, but the company said they will not be paid, apart from reimbursement of their travel expenses. The panel will include Google’s general counsel, David Drummond, and chairman Eric Schmidt, as well as eight participants from outside the company, including a former German justice minister and two academics.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a vocal critic of the “right to be forgotten”, is to participate, as well as UN human rights official Frank La Rue, former Spanish data-protection regulator Jose-Luis Pinar, Sylvie Kauffman, editorial director of France’s Le Monde newspaper, and Luciano Floridi, a professor of philosophy at Oxford University.

Public events

Members of the public can also attend, and will be invited to share their views and ask questions, according to Google. Applications to participate will open around two weeks before the event.

Data-protection regulators were invited to take part, according to Google, but the Spanish and French regulators both said they had no plans to participate. The Spanish data-protection agency said in a statement that it “does not take part in public open consultations promoted by companies or individuals subject to data-protection law whose activity it has to supervise”.

The European Commission said it welcomes the panel discussions, saying in a statement they “do not detract from the fact that the implementation of the judgment will be overseen by the national data-protection authorities and ultimately by national courts”.

‘PR exercise’

Others were more critical, calling the meetings a publicity exercise intended to stir up opposition to the ECJ’s ruling. Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of France’s privacy authority, told Reuters the debates are part of a “PR war”.

“They want to be seen as being open and virtuous, but they handpicked the members of the council, will control who is in the audience, and what comes out of the meetings,” she said.

The following meetings are scheduled for Rome on Wednesday, Paris on 25 September, Warsaw on 30 September, Berlin on 14 October, London on 16 October and Brussels on 4 November. Google said it plans to stream the sessions online.

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