Google responds to BBC “right to be forgotten” blunder

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Google has admitted to being too keen to grant requests for the removal of websites from search results under the recent "right to be forgotten" ruling, after complaints from several sources.

The BBC, Daily Mail and Guardian have all criticised the search engine's approach, after pages steadily began to disappear from search results.

Over 70,000 people have reportedly asked Google to delete links to articles since the ruling was made by the European Court of Justice back in May.

The information must be deemed "irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate" before it is eligible for removal, but the BBC's economics editor, Robert Peston, claimed the removal of his 2007 blog post was effectively Google casting him "into oblivion".

Meanwhile, Google's director of communications for Europe, Peter Barron, admitted the company could make the process clearer when informing publishers of requested deletions. When interviewed on BBC Radio 4, he called their approach so far as a "learning process".

According to Barron, the request resulting in the BBC blog post being removed came from a commenter, rather than the subject of the article itself, as had been assumed. He also denied the accusation that Google have been quick to remove links in an effort to subvert the judgement.

Speaking on the programme, Peston said: "It was an inevitable reaction by me, when I got the email from Google saying my particular story was no longer going to be searchable, to think that it was being cast into oblivion, because that's what the email implied."

In response, Barron said: "That's very fair feedback. That is something we are looking at. It is completely understandable that Robert assumed that it was Stan O'Neal who made the complaint. So that's something we'll look at. We could perhaps say 'bear in mind it may not be the person you think it is'.

"We have to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect people's identities."

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

You can get in touch with Caroline via email at