BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google GOOGL.O will start scrubbing search results across all its websites when accessed from a European country to soothe the objections of Europe’s privacy regulators to its implementation of a landmark EU ruling, a person close to the company said.
The U.S. company has been at loggerheads with several European Union data protection authorities since the European Court of Justice ruled in May 2014 that people could ask search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing MSFT.O to remove inadequate or irrelevant information that appears under searches for their name - dubbed the “right to be forgotten”.
The French data protection authority in September threatened to fine Google if it did not scrub search results globally across all versions of its website, such as Google.com.
But the company has stuck to its position that it should clean up search results only on European domains such as Google.fr or Google.de because to do otherwise would have a chilling effect on the free flow of information.
To address the concerns of European authorities, the Internet giant will soon start polishing search results across all its websites when someone conducts a search from the country where the removal request originated, a person close to the company said.
That means that if a German resident asks Google to de-list a link popping up under searches for his or her name, the link will not be visible on any version of Google’s website, including Google.com, when the search engine is accessed from Germany.
The company will filter search results according to a user’s IP address, meaning people accessing Google from outside Europe will not be affected, the person added.
Since the ruling in 2014, Google has received 386,038 requests for removal, according to its transparency website. It has accepted about 42 percent of them.
The company has notified all EU data protection authorities of the upcoming changes.
A spokeswoman for Britain’s data protection watchdog said the change proposed by Google appeared to address concerns it had previously expressed “on the scope of the requirement to de-list”.
A spokeswoman for the French CNIL - which chairs a working group of EU privacy regulators - said authorities had been informed of Google’s plans, which showed that the “issue of territorial scope requires careful thought.”
“These elements are currently the object of an inquiry by the services of the CNIL,” she said.
Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by Adrian Croft