Google gets 2.4M requests from Europeans to be ‘forgotten’

File photo: The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Google has been flooded with 2.4 million requests from individuals and companies across Europe to be “forgotten” — that is, wiped clean from any Web search.

Most of the requests came from regular Joes wanting sensitive information — like their home address or personal photos or videos — removed from any Google search results, the company said in its annual transparency report released on Tuesday.


But among the others looking to take advantage of Europe’s 2014 “right to be forgotten” law were 41,213 requests from celebrities and 33,937 requests from politicians, Google said in the report.

The law, enacted by the European Union in May 2014, requires Google and other search engines to de-list information when a valid request is received.

Americans do not have the ability to ask search engines to delete their names from search results.

In Europe, results that are eligible to be removed must be deemed “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” by the search engine’s staff and must be determined to not generate significant public interest.

The 2,437,271 requests received by Google cover the period from when the law went into effect through December 2017.

Google said that it has processed 2.08 million of the requests and that 43 percent, or roughly 900,000, have been deemed valid and have been de-listed.

The right-to-be-forgotten law has been so popular that a cottage industry appears to have popped up — companies helping others make the RTBF requests. Roughly 1,000 requesters — mainly law firms and reputation-management services — accounted for 360,000, or 15 percent, of all the RTBF bids, Google said.

While the law has been very popular, the demand is slowing. Google noted that 39.7 percent of de-listing requests were made in the first year of RTBF —with 24.9 percent coming in the second year and 22 percent in the third year.

Roughly one-third of the requests pertained to the removal of personal information from social-media and directory sites, while one-fifth of the requests were to remove a requester’s legal history.

James Bark