Asylum seekers, trafficking victims and extremists ask Google to remove data online

Millions have applied to have internet articles deleted by search engine

Google has received millions of requests to remove data from its searches. Bloomberg
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Asylum seekers and trafficking victims have joined arms dealers and violent extremists in asking Google to remove their data from the internet.

More than 6.6 million requests have been submitted to Google under its Right to be Forgotten programme by people wanting to be wiped from online search results.

The latest cases include asylum seekers, migrants and trafficking victims who have risen to prominent positions and wish to wipe their past.

They also include requests by an arms dealer, a Croatian man convicted of a military uprising against the regime of a former president in Bolivia, a former member of a French violent extremist organisation who was convicted of a racist attack and members of extremist groups in Germany.

Under the policy, Google considers each request and decides whether its presence on the internet breaches a person’s human rights, or if it were in the public interest for it to remain.

Half of the more than six million requests Google has received since the launch of the programme in 2014 have been rejected.

The technology company recently refused a request filed by an international arms dealer from Bulgaria, who now holds a diplomatic position, to remove articles about weapons being illegally diverted after it was discovered that the business person was subject to several investigations by international organisations.

A man from Cyprus asked Google to remove articles about his previous immigration issues and past conviction for evading deportation while a former government official in Czechia asked for the delisting of a news article about his experience on migrating from Iraq to the Czech Republic.

A person in Estonia who was a victim of human trafficking sought the right to be forgotten in search inquiries.

A man in France convicted of being a member of a violent extremist organisation asked for stories about it to be removed. In another case, a victim of a terrorist attack in France asked for their name to be removed from stories about it.

A man in Germany asked for a tweet to be delisted that showed him being part of an anti-Semitic row during demonstrations in Berlin and another person from Germany asked for the delisting of articles relating to their membership of the far-right Identitarian Movement group.

Google refused a request from a Swedish politician, who was a leader of a political party, who asked for news stories covering accusations of sexual harassment and misuse of power against women in his party to be removed.

“We did not delist the URLs, given the prominent public position of the requestor and long duration of the professional wrongdoing,” Google said.

Previously, terrorists living in Europe applied to have their details removed.

“We assess each request on a case-by-case basis,” Google said.

“A few common material factors involved in decisions not to delist pages include the existence of alternative solutions, technical reasons, or duplicate URLs. We may also determine that the page contains information which is strongly in the public interest.

“Determining whether content is in the public interest is complex and may mean considering many diverse factors, including — but not limited to — whether the content relates to the requester’s professional life, a past crime, political office, position in public life or whether the content is self-authored content, consists of government documents or is journalistic in nature.”

Updated: December 20, 2022, 3:54 PM