A landmark decision on Tuesday could radically reshape how Google's search results work
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- Google is bracing for a landmark ruling that could mean people have the right to scrub sensitive information or bad news from its search results, a concept known as the "right to be forgotten."
- The policy means Google must delete search results about people's personal information or their past crimes if requested. But it only applies in Europe.
- On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice will decide on two cases that could impact how the policy is applied, Reuters reported. Crucially, it will decide whether the policy must only be applied in Europe or whether it will apply globally.
- While privacy supporters praise this as an important tool to protect people online, Google said that expanding this globally would impinge on freedom of speech.
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Google is preparing itself for a landmark privacy ruling at Europe's highest court this week.
On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice will decide on two cases that could impact how Europe's so-called "right to be forgotten" policy is applied - specifically, whether it will impact search engine results globally, not just within the EU, and whether Google must automatically delete search results with sensitive information about a person. Reuters was first to report the news.
Right to be forgotten is a European policy that lets individuals ask Google to remove sensitive information, including their past crimes
"Right to be forgotten" is the idea that private citizens can ask companies or websites to take down certain material about them that is considered to be "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive."
The idea rose to prominent in 2014 when the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that individuals have the right to ask search engines, such as Google, to delist certain results about them. Since then, Google has become a target of requests from people wanting to remove content.
In this particular case, France's data-protection agency CNIL has argued that while Google does delete, or "delist," some results from private citizens when requested, it isn't delisting the results globally, and it should be.
While supporters of privacy rights say that "right to be forgotten" is an important tool to protect people online, Google said that expanding this globally would impinge on freedom of speech.
Richard Cumbley, a partner at law firm Linklaters, pointed out to Reuters that it could be especially complex in the US as if this were passed, it could "create a serious clash" with concepts of freedom of speech there, he said.
A man once asked Google to scrub results relating to his benefits fraud, but provided forged proof of his innocence
Google has indicated that since 2014 it has received more than 3.3 million requests in Europe to delete links from search results. 45% of these URLs have been delisted, it said.
Google also lists out example requests, apparently to show how "right to be forgotten" can be used for legitimate and dishonest purposes.
For example, in one request from the UK, a man who was convicted of benefits fraud in 2012 asked Google to delist nearly 300 articles related to his conviction based on a document he provided suggesting he was later found innocent of the crime.
Google then describes the outcome of this. "We delisted 293 URLs pursuant to the documentation the requester provided. The requester then asked us to delist several other pages related to his separate conviction for forging documents. After re-reviewing the original document he submitted as proof of his innocence in the benefits case, we discovered that it was a forgery. We reinstated all of the URLs we had previously delisted."
A spokesperson for Google did not immediately reply to Business Insider's request for comment.
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