The European Court of Justice recently made a ruling that requires search engines to listen to requests from people who want to strike search results relating to their past from the search results. This was an interesting case essentially arguing privacy vs. expression, and while the court ruled for privacy in the EU, they made careful considerations to limit what some are considering censorship.
But this isn’t necessarily as simple as flagging a result and seeing it disappear. Basically, the case requires search engines to create a mechanism for people to make requests to remove results. Search engines can still reject all requests. However, complainants will be able to take the decision to a governmental authority to have a decision rendered.
The basis for whether or not the result will be stricken from the search results is “interest of the general public in having, on account of its inclusion in the list of results, access to the information in question.” So, although one of the first requests to remove a result was from a convicted pedophile, it is unlikely that this information wouldn’t be considered important to the general public and will therefore be removed, whereas the case the court ruled on was about a newspaper posting the notice of the repossession and auction of his home for the purpose of recovering money he owed. The newspaper article was from 1998, and certainly seems to offer no substantial value to anyone.
While this will require changes for search engines, it isn’t a completely new process. Search engines already have to handle DMCA requests to remove content that violates copyright laws.
This also doesn’t mean the information is deleted from the original source. It only makes it harder to find on the internet.
It doesn’t seem clear if pages with the content that are stricken from a result will be completely removed from the index. It seems they may only need to be removed from certain searches, as this seems to revolve around searches for a person’s name and not searches for an event that may have occurred.
While the decision by the European Court of Justice is final and can’t be appealed further, there are still a lot of questions regarding how search engines will handle requests and how the governing bodies will decide cases.