Attempts to hide the attempted murder of an entire family, an affair with a teenager, cyberstalking and tax dodging are just some of the latest examples of people trying to rewrite their digital history, The Independent can reveal.
Google has been inundated with more than a thousand takedown demands – and hundreds from people in Britain - in the past few days. The wave of requests was triggered by a European Court ruling on Tuesday giving people the “right to be forgotten.”
In one case, a man who had tried to kill his family wants to get rid of links to a news report about the crime. In another example, a well known actor is demanding the removal of links to articles about an affair they had with a teenager. And the child of one celebrity has approached the company in a bid to get news reports about a criminal conviction removed. Half the demands made in the UK are from those with a criminal past, such as a man trying to get rid of links to information about his conviction for possessing child abuse images, according to a source close to the Internet giant. One person wants to get rid of a link revealing their conviction for cyberstalking, and another wants links to information about tax offences erased.
It is not just criminals and celebrities attempting to hide their past. A former MP now seeking reelection is trying to get links to details of their past conduct removed. And a university lecturer who was suspended from their post wants that information taken down. Businesses are also demanding that certain things are removed – one company calling for the deletion of links to forum discussions by customers complaining of being ripped off.
For Google and other web search companies now face legal action if they refuse to remove information deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant," according to this week’s decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union. It was in response to a case brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on web search results had infringed his privacy.
Opinion remains divided on the ruling, with EU Commissioner Viviane Reding calling it "a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans", while to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, it is "one of the most wide-sweeping Internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen."
The rate at which people are demanding Google remove links to information about them has escalated dramatically in recent days and now stands at more than a thousand across Europe. Yet the true scale may be far higher, since it is “logistically complicated” and “may take several weeks” for Google to work out how it will handle the requests, admitted a spokesperson for the company today.