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Google error leaks Right to be Forgotten request data

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Data accidentally made public by Google has revealed that 95 percent of all requests for search results to be removed from its index under the Right to be Forgotten ruling have been made by ordinary people, not celebrities, MPs or criminals.

The data, uncovered by The Guardian, is somewhat surprising, as one of the chief arguments made against the Right to be Forgotten is that it could be abused by those in high-profile positions to hide negative stories from their past.

However, The Guardian uncovered information in the source code of Google’s Transparency Report showing that the vast majority of the 220,000 requests received up to March 2015 related to everyday people.

“These include a woman whose name appeared in prominent news articles after her husband died, another seeking removal of her address, and an individual who contracted HIV a decade ago,” The Guardian reported.

Google said that the information was test data being worked on as the company considers the possibility of providing more insight into the nature of the requests it has received.

"We’ve always aimed to be as transparent as possible about our Right to be Forgotten decisions. The data The Guardian found was part of a test to figure out how we could best categorise requests," the firm said.

"We discontinued that test in March because the data was not reliable enough for publication. We are, however, currently working on ways to improve our transparency reporting."

Google has revealed that as of 14 July it has received 283,276 requests to take down information for over one million URLs.

The Right to be Forgotten ruling has created much controversy, some arguing that it has effectively made Google the judge and jury when deciding who can have their information made private and who cannot.

The BBC has already attempted to keep a list of all the URLs that Google has removed from its listings relating to the broadcaster to help people find out what is being removed.

"The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links," wrote Neil McIntosh, managing editor at the BBC.


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