Google ‘must open up over right to be forgotten'

Academics’ open letter calls on the search giant to be more transparent about how it handles such requests

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Google has developed its "right to be forgotten" policies away from public scrutiny, according to 80 academics who have written an open letter to the search giant.

The letter accused the tech company of deciding on requests to pull links from its search results "in the dark".

It comes on the first anniversary of the European Court of Justice's right to be forgotten ruling, which states that Google must remove links that are out of date, incorrect, or no longer relevant.

The letter read: "The vast majority of [Google's] decisions face no public scrutiny, though they shape public discourse.

"What's more, the values at work in this process will/should inform information policy around the world. A fact-free debate about the RTBF is in no one's interest."

The academics, who include Ian Brown, professor of information security and privacy at the University of Oxford, and Ellen P Goodman from the Rutgers University School of Law, state two reasons they think Google should make its thinking public.

They argue that it would allow the public to find out how companies like Google use their "tremendous power" over easily-accessed data, and also that Google's actions will affect the future of the right to be forgotten ruling in Europe and perhaps further abroad.

The search giant holds a 90 per cent share of Europe's search market, making it by far the largest search engine in use.

The EU decision effectively puts Google in charge of deciding how to implement the ruling, as well as making it the arbiter of what data about a person should and shouldn't be publically available.

Yesterday the search giant released stats on the 253,617 requests it's had since right to be forgotten was introduced.

It revealed it has pulled down 41 per cent of links, denying 59 per cent of the requests.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is currently disputing Google's decisions in 48 cases, adding that it has enforcement powers it can use if Google doesn't play ball.

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