London - Google has been accused of taking an over-zealous approach to the removal of stories from its search engine because it is ‘cheaper just to say yes’ to all demands.
Some 70,000 people have asked for stories about them to be removed from search results, in what critics have described as a re-writing of the past and a danger to free speech.
Google’s actions follow a European Court ruling earlier this year which created the ‘right to be forgotten’ and has provoked fury among MPs.
The decision allows people to ask that ‘irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate’ information be hidden from search results. However experts say the criteria remain unclear.
Tory MP Dominic Raab said last night: ‘This draconian European Court ruling risks turning internet search engines ... into a refuge for scoundrels and crooks.’
A spokesman for the European Commission, Ryan Heath, said the legal ruling should not be an ‘open door for people to create more work for Google or Photoshop their own lives’, adding that European ministers should sign off on a cross-continental data protection law.
He also told Radio 4’s PM programme he thought Google had not exercised good judgment over a deleted article by BBC journalist Robert Peston about millionaire banker Stan O’Neal, who is blamed for helping cause the financial crisis.
He said: ‘It may be that they [Google] have decided it is simply cheaper to just say yes to all of these requests.This really does give a bit of a kick to the national governments and says they have got to get their act together now... so there is a bit more common sense and so that there is a legal certainty there for journalists.’
The Daily Express revealed it had been notified that a story published by the newspaper in 2009 about the conversion of George Osborne’s younger brother, Dr Adam Osborne, to Islam was being removed from search results.
The MailOnline website has also received removal notifications, but publisher Martin Clarke has said that the website will continue to carry lists of articles that have been hidden in search results.
A spokesman for Google – which fought the decision in court – said: ‘We have recently started taking action on the removals requests we’ve received after the European Court of Justice decision. This is a new and evolving process for us. We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling.’
* Mansions owned by Sir Paul McCartney, Lily Allen, Tony Blair and Katherine Jenkins are among a string of homes which have vanished from Google’s Street View map, it has emerged.
Google’s popular feature allows users to view houses and shops along almost every road in the world. A Google spokesman confirmed that it has always been possible for users with a ‘compelling case’ to convince them to remove images of their homes.
But it has been hit by a huge increase in requests to remove data from its search archives after European judges ruled in favour of citizens’ ‘right to be forgotten’. - Daily Mail