Google is planning to expand Europeans' "right to be forgotten" online, but not as far as regulators had wanted.
Since a court ruling a few years back, Europeans have been able to petition search engines like Google or Yahoo to remove links about them when the page contains inaccurate, irrelevant or excessive information. But up to now, the requests have been fulfilled only for Europe-specific domains, while the pages remain part of the standard Google.com that is used in the United States.
The move would only affect the country where the request originated, however, and would not change the search results people see in the United States or other parts of the world, as French regulators have demanded.
The changes will take effect early next month. Google did not comment on the reports, but a source there confirmed them.
Under the "right to be forgotten," the actual webpage is not scrubbed from the web. Instead, it is delisted from search results. So far, Google has removed about 492,000 links from its search results, declining about 58 percent of requests.
Google currently only extends that kind of scrubbing to Europe-specific domains, but not the standard Google.com that is used in the United States.
The change revealed Thursday will ensure that when links are removed under the policy, they will be removed from Google.com and all other domains accessible in the country — instead of simply the Google.fr, Google.uk and other European domains.
Google has said that the vast majority of searches from European countries come from country-specific domains. That means next month’s change will have a small practical effect.
The company has been battling a French demand for the company to expand the right to be forgotten to all domain listings around the globe. Google has said that kind of plan would have a chilling effect on the Internet and would likely mean that the “Internet would only be as free as the world’s least-free place.”