13,429 Spaniards ask to be ‘forgotten’ by Google

The tech giant has been hit with thousands of Spanish demands to be deleted from search results after losing a landmark 'right to be forgotten' EU legal battle and introducing a 'removal request' service.

13,429 Spaniards ask to be 'forgotten' by Google
Spanish government agencies and police forces also asked Google to delete 61 search results. Screenshot: Google

Google’s latest Transparency Report shows that the American company received 144,907 requests from Europeans to remove certain links from the results that come up when searching their names after losing a legal battle with Spain's data protection agency.

In May 2014, Spaniard Mario Casteja took on the tech giant over privacy and won a landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ decision in the EU Court of Justice.

The ruling only affects search results made from the European versions of Google. In response, Google introduced an official 'removal request' service on May 29th.  

Since then, Google has received a total of 13,429 requests from Spain that affect 43,573 URLs. Of those requests, Google removed 34.1 percent of the URLs and rejected 65.9 percent of the requests. 

The company has received 146,357 individual requests throughout Europe and has evaluated nearly a half million URLs for removal. Google removed the URLs in 41.8 percent of the requests. 

Facebook was the site most affected by the ‘right to be forgotten’, with 3,353 URLs removed from the social media behemoth. 

Google’s Transparency Report lists some examples of the types of requests that have come in since the ‘right to be forgotten’ took effect. 

“A financial professional asked us to remove more than 10 links to pages reporting on his arrest and conviction for financial crimes. We did not remove the pages from search results,” Google wrote about a case from Switzerland.

“A media professional requested that we remove 4 links to articles reporting on embarrassing content he posted to the Internet. We did not remove the pages from search results,” the search giant wrote about a UK case. 

“An individual requested that we remove close to 50 links to articles about an embarrassing private exchange that became public. The pages have been removed from search results for his name,” Google said about a German case. 

In September, it was reported that a Daily Mail story about Austrian incest rapist Josef Fritzl was removed from search results.

Google did not provide specific examples of Spanish requests but revealed that it had received 21 court orders from Spain requesting the removal of 45 content items, and that it had complied with 57 per cent of them.

It also noted that it had received 36 requests from the Spanish government and police forces to remove 61 items of content, 31 per cent of which it carried out.  

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Google News to return to Spain after seven-year spat

Google announced Wednesday the reopening of its news service in Spain next year after the country amended a law that imposed fees on aggregators such as the US tech giant for using publishers’ content.

Google News to return to Spain after seven-year spat
Google argues its news site drives readers to Spanish newspaper and magazine websites and thus helps them generate advertising revenue.Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

The service closed in Spain in December 2014 after legislation passed requiring web platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay publishers to reproduce content from other websites, including links to their articles that describe a story’s content.

But on Tuesday the Spanish government approved a European Union copyright law that allows third-party online news platforms to negotiate directly with content providers regarding fees.

This means Google no longer has to pay a fee to Spain’s entire media industry and can instead negotiate fees with individual publishers.

Writing in a company blog post on Wednesday, Google Spain country manager Fuencisla Clemares welcomed the government move and announced that as a result “Google News will soon be available once again in Spain”.

“The new copyright law allows Spanish media outlets — big and small — to make their own decisions about how their content can be discovered and how they want to make money with that content,” she added.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with publishers to reach agreements which cover their rights under the new law.”

News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions have long seethed at the failure of Google particularly to pay them a cut of the millions it makes from ads displayed alongside news stories.

Google argues its news site drives readers to newspaper and magazine websites and thus helps them generate advertising revenue and find new subscribers.