By Sam Schechner at WSJ:
PARIS—European Union privacy watchdogs grilled Google Inc. and other search engines for two hours on Thursday on how they are implementing the bloc’s new “right to be forgotten” online–and then gave them homework to do by next week, too.
The main body that joins together the EU’s national data-protection regulators called the Brussels meeting with Google, Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc. amid rising discontent from some regulators over elements of Google’s application of the surprise May court decision that gives Europeans the right to ask for the removal of links from search results for their names in some cases.
Regulators touched on some hot-button issues in six oral questions and another 26 written ones, with answers due by next Thursday. They asked Google to describe the “legal basis” of its decision to notify publishers when it approves right-to-be-forgotten requests, something that has led to requesters’ being publicly identified in some cases. They also asked search engines to explain where they take down the results, after complaints from some regulators that Google does not filter results on google.com. That means that anyone in Europe can switch from, say, google.co.uk to Google.com to see any removed links.
In response to another question, Google told regulators Thursday that it has been removing just over 50% of the items that people have asked to be unlinked from searches for their names, while rejecting just over 30% of requests, and asking for more information on 15%.
But for the most part, data protection officials avoided a more in-depth, controversial discussion during Thursday’s meeting, saving the tough decisions and orders for a set of guidelines the regulators aim to publish in late September or early October, attendees said.
“We didn’t tell the search engines to do anything. We were gathering information,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of France’s data-protection authority, and chairman of the pan-European group of authorities. “The goal was to help inform our decision on the guidelines.”
Read the full list of questions here, as provided by France’s data-protection authority:
Questions asked during the meeting
1. What information do you request from a data subject prior to considering a delisting request e.g. URLs, justification? Do you ask further motivation from the data subjects to substantiate their request?
2. Do you filter out some requests based on the location, nationality, or place of residence of the data subject? If so, what is the legal basis for excluding such requests?
3. Do you delist results displayed following a search:
a. Only on EU / EEA domains?
b. On all domains pages accessible from the EU / EEA or by EU/EEA residents?
c. On all domains on a global basis?
4. What criteria do you use to balance your economic interest and/or the interest of the general public in having access to that information versus the right of the data subject to have search results delisted?
5. What explanations / grounds do you provide to data subjects to justify a refusal to delist certain URLs?
6. Do you notify website publishers of delisting? In that case, which legal basis do you have to notify website publishers?
Additional questions to be answered in writing by July 31
7. Do you provide proper information about the delisting process on an easily accessible webpage? Have you developed a help center explaining how to submit a delisting claim?
8. Can data subjects request delisting only using the electronic form that you provide, or can other means be used?
9. Can data subjects request delisting in their own language?
10. If you filter out some requests based on the location, nationality, or place of residence, what kind of information must be provided by the data subject in order to prove his nationality and / or place of residence?
11. Do you ask for a proof of identify or some other form of authentication and if yes, what kind? For what reason? What safeguards do you put in place to protect any personal data that you process for the purpose of processing delisting requests?
12. Do you accept general claims for delisting (e.g. delist all search results linking to a news report)?
13. When you decide to accept a delisting request, what information do you actually delist? Do you ever permanently delist hyperlinks in response to a removal request, as opposed to delisting?
14. Do you delist search results based only on the name of the data subject or also in combination of the name with another search term (i.e. Costeja and La Vanguardia)
15. How do you treat removal requests with regard to hyperlinks to pages that do not (no longer) contain the name of the data subject? [Examples: hyperlink to anonymised ruling, hyperlink to page where name of data subject was removed]. Do you immediately recrawl the sites after a removal request?
16. Does your company refuse requests when the data subject was the author of the information he/she posted himself/herself on the web? If so, what is the basis for refusing such requests?
17. Do you have any automated process defining if a request is accepted or refused?
18. What technical solution do you use to ensure that links to material to which a removal agreement applies are not shown in the search results?
19. Which of your services do you consider delisting requests to be relevant to?
20. Do you notify users through the search results’ page information that some results have been removed according to EU law? In that case, which is the legal basis for this? What is the exact policy? In particular, it appears that this notice is sometimes displayed even in the absence of removal requests by data subjects. Can you confirm or exclude that this is actually the case and, if so, could you elaborate on the applicable criteria?
21. Have you considered sharing delisted search results with other search engines providers?
22. What is the average time to process the requests?
23. What statistics can you share at this stage (percentage of requests accepted / partially accepted / refused)? How many have you answered in total? How many per day?
24. Will you create a database of all removal requests or removal agreements?
25. What particular problems have you faced when implementing the Court’s ruling? Are there particular categories of requests that pose specific problems?
26. Could you please provide us with contact details in case we need to exchange on a specific case?
Lisa Fleischer contributed to this article.