Google is expected to create a mechanism to request the removal of search results within “weeks” following an EU ruling that backs the deletion of sensitive personal information.
The company said in a statement on Thursday that implementation of the ruling would be complicated and require thorough scrutiny “not least because of the many languages that are affected here”.
Google said that once it had developed a practical method, it would inform users. “This could take several weeks,” the statement said.
The European Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday deems that search engines are not simply hosting content but act as “controllers” of data, and are therefore subject to data protection rules.
The ruling said individuals have the right to request the removal of links to “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” personal data – even when the information is published legally.
At the Google’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, executive chairman Eric Schmidt said the EU had struck the wrong balance between privacy and free speech.
Mr Schmidt said: “A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know. From Google’s perspective that’s a balance.
“Google believes having looked at the decision, which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.”
The case stems from a Spanish national’s request that Google stop linking to a 16-year-old announcement relating to the auction of his house because of social security debt.
It has implications beyond search engines, making it easier for people to remove personal information held by newspaper publishers and catalogue systems.
Google already has a system that allows copyright owners to report links to infringing content, but the privacy ruling is more complex as it requires Google to judge whether a deletion is in the public interest.
The ECJ states that in cases involving “public” figures, search engines can challenge the deletion request and refer the case to a court or data protection authority.
Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said the ruling went too far. He said that the EU court “didn’t consider adequately the impact on free expression, which is absolutely a human right”.
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