Google's chief legal officer admits 'right to be forgotten' removal mistakes have been made

Google's chief legal officer has revealed that several links have been incorrectly removed following 'right to be forgotten' requests.

David Drummond (pictured, Reuters), who is also the company’s senior vice-president for corporate development, said that it has received 70,000 take-down requests covering 250,000 web pages since May.

He said the links that were wrongly removed last week have since been reinstated.

Drummond said Google "disagrees" with the EU court 'right to be forgotten' ruling, but added: "[W]e obviously respect the court's authority and are doing our very best to comply quickly and responsibly."

Drummond was writing in The Guardian, which itself had six links removed by Google. Four of those have now been reinstated after Google acknowledged it was wrong to act on them.

Drummond wrote: “The examples we've seen so far highlight the difficult value judgments search engines and European society now face: former politicians wanting posts removed that criticise their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret). In each case someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue that it should be out in the open.

“When it comes to determining what's in the public interest, we're taking into account a number of factors. These include whether the information relates to a politician, celebrity or other public figure; if the material comes from a reputable news source, and how recent it is; whether it involves political speech; questions of professional conduct that might be relevant to consumers; the involvement of criminal convictions that are not yet "spent"; and if the information is being published by a government. But these will always be difficult and debatable judgments.”

He said that Google is doing its best to be “transparent” by informing websites when article links have been removed.

But he said that it cannot reveal why it has taken that action “because that could violate an individual's privacy rights under the court's decision”.

He added: “Of course, only two months in our process is still very much a work in progress. It's why we incorrectly removed links to some articles last week (they've since been reinstated). But the good news is that the ongoing, active debate that's happening will inform the development of our principles, policies and practices – in particular about how to balance one person's right to privacy with another's right to know.”

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