The Internet is starting to forget.

Google Inc.

GOOGL -0.80%

Google Inc. Cl A

U.S.: Nasdaq



June 26, 2014 10:04 am

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said Thursday that it has started removing results from its search engine under Europe’s new “right to be forgotten,” implementing a landmark May ruling by the European Union’s top court that gives individuals the right to request removal of results that turn up in Internet searches for their own names.

Google engineers overnight updated the company’s technical infrastructure to start implementing the removals, and Thursday began sending the first emails to individuals informing them that links they had requested were being taken down. Only a small number of the initial wave of requests has been processed.

Google has started to take action on requests to remove individuals’ search results in Europe.
Getty Images

“This week we’re starting to take action on the removals requests that we’ve received,” a Google spokesman said. “This is a new process for us. Each request has to be assessed individually, and we’re working as quickly as possible to get through the queue.”

As of nearly a month ago, Google had received more than 41,000 removal requests via a web form it had set up in response to the ruling, which said Google must weigh individuals’ right to privacy against a public interest in having certain information available.

The ruling caused a round of consternation inside Google and among free-speech advocates in the U.S., who argued that it could enable censorship and put Google in a difficult position as an arbiter of what people have a right to know. But privacy activists said the reactions were overblown because results would only be removed from individual name searches, not from all of Google’s search results.

Google’s quick move to implement the ruling by the European Court of Justice is the company’s latest conciliatory move as it faces down European governments and regulators in multiple battles, from antitrust probes to tax investigations. Regulators from the EU’s 28 member states decided in early June to work out a uniform policy for interpreting the ruling, and Google says it plans to work with them.

Google also appeared to bend to regulators’ desire that the company refrain from indicating in search results when something had been removed. Google had earlier indicated it might highlight the removals, something it does when it removes links to pirated content. But EU regulators told Google in recent weeks that such a move would undermine the spirit of the decision by making it clear some individuals had wanted information about them suppressed, one regulator said.

Instead, Google on Thursday added a blanket notification that appears at the bottom of most results for individual name searches conducted on Google’s European search websites, such as and, according to an explanation the company posted to its website. The notification—”Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe”—is added algorithmically to searches that appear to be for a name, a person familiar with the matter said.

Online-reputation businesses are already moving to take advantage of the ruling. French company Reputation VIP on Tuesday launched a website that helps simplify the process of making a request via Google’s freely available removal-request form. The site guides users graphically and uses one of 30 prewritten justifications for Google to remove the links in question.

While the service is free for the time being, Reputation VIP CEO

Bertrand Girin

says he aims to start charging for it in coming months, trying to grab a percentage of what he believes could be more than 500,000 requests in the first year.

“There are going to be people who are ready to pay to have the best chance of success,” said Mr. Girin.

Write to Sam Schechner at