By Julian Hattem - 05/30/14 10:32 AM EDT
Google is taking a major step to comply with a recent European court ruling calling for a "right to be forgotten" on the Internet.
A form unveiled on Friday allowed people to request that the search engine giant take down links to results that are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
In complying with this month’s European Court of Justice decision, the company pledged to “assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information."
The online form, which Google called an “initial effort” at complying with the law, allows people in the European Union to specify which country’s law applies to their request, enter their name, the offending link and explain why it is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate.” Google is also requiring people requesting links taken down to scan a copy of their driver’s license or other photo identification to prove they are who they say they are.
The European high court this month ruled in favor of a Spanish man who asked Google to take down links to newspaper articles about his home being repossessed and auctioned off. The articles were accurate but no longer relevant, he said, and were hurting his reputation.
The ruling opened the floodgates to people asking for embarrassing or compromising links to be taken down. That's likely to lead to a headache for Google, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of European search requests, and free speech advocates have warned that it could have disastrous effects on journalism and the public record.
Constitutional protections under the First Amendment and a general cultural preference towards free expression over personal privacy make a similar decision incredibly unlikely in the United States.
Google has said that links will be scrubbed only for search results in the EU.