Google to Europe: No, we won’t stop telling web publishers when we ‘forget’ them

Google intends to continue letting publishers know when it has removed links to their sites because of the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” ruling.

That practice has resulted in agitated publishers, writers penning stories about the very article that someone was trying to hide, and more exposure about the consequences of forgetting.

Some observers of what might now be described as The Forgotten Continent have suggested that European regulators do not welcome the attention from these angry publishers and writers.

What legal basis do Google have?

This notification was also reportedly a key topic of concern from the regulators, when they met for a sit-down last Thursday with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

The search engine reps emerged from the meeting with a sheet of 26 questions the regulators wanted answered, and today Google released its answers.

One of the questions was: “Do you notify website publishers of delisting?” And, its companion: “In that case, which legal basis do you have to notify website publishers?”

The answer

Google’s reply, in part:

“We think that it is important to let third party publishers know when we stop linking to their sites. We have already started receiving complaints from webmasters about the removal of links to their sites, and we already face challenges from publishers about removal decisions that result in reduced traffic to their sites. The notice to webmasters both ensures transparency and makes corrections possible when a removal proves to be a mistake.

We have received information from webmasters that has caused us to reevaluate removals and reinstate search results. Such feedback from webmasters enables us to conduct a more balanced weighing of rights, thereby improving our decision-making process and the outcome for search users and webmasters.”

Lack of direction

The extensive and detailed nature of the regulators’ questions emphasize the complete lack of direction that the European Court and the regulators have provided to the search engines in trying to decide a range of subtle issues.

In addition to the subject of letting sites know when they’ve been delinked, the questions asked about such basic issues as how the validity of a request or the identity of a requester is determined, what domains are included, and how a decision is made between the public’s right to know and “the right of the data subject to have search results delisted.”

“Fair balance interests”

In one key answer that shows how the company has had to make it up as they went along, Google wrote:

“We generally have to rely on the requester for information, without assurance beyond the requester’s own assertions as to its accuracy.”

After listing dozens of examples of issues and its attempts to solve them, Google essentially sighed:

“The examples above illustrate the difficulties a search engine provider faces in attempting to effectively strike a fair balance interests regarding information published by a third party.”