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EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'

Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!

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EU countries appear to be divided on how to implement a recent European Court of Justice ruling that calls on Google and other search engines to remove certain links from their indexes.

The 28-state bloc's independent data protection advisory board - the Article 29 working party - met on Tuesday to discuss how removal requests rejected by Google, Microsoft and others should be addressed by members of the European Union at a domestic level.

It said in a statement that a "coordinated and coherent" set of guidelines needed to be agreed on to help EU countries handle complaints from netizens who are dissatisfied with, for example, Google's response.

The Article 29 Party said:

Within the perspective of having a unified European implementation of the judgment, the data protection authorites analysed the different legal bases allowing individuals - regardless of their nationality, their residency and the harm suffered - to invoke the right to request search engines to remove them from indexing.

The precise methods of exercising this right to be forgotten, as well as search engines' potential refusal to execute this right was also studied in an in-depth manner.

The body added that it was important for EU citizens to understand the "precise reasons" why a search engine can chuck out their requests.

Google claimed to have received thousands of de-link submissions immediately after the ruling was applied in mid-May. On the other hand, Microsoft's Bing search engine, which has only a 2.5 per cent share of the market in Europe, is receiving only a trickle of requests from its users. The Register understands that just 12 complaints about Bing search links hit Microsoft in the first few days following the judgment.

Just yesterday, Redmond began offering its users a mechanism to submit requests to have links removed that are old, out of date or irrelevant and - significantly - found not to be in the public interest.

The Article 29 Working Party said it planned to meet with Google, Microsoft and other search engines on 24 July to discuss "the practical implementation of the key principles in this CJEU case".

Guidelines from the EU's independent privacy advisor are expected to follow in the autumn - assuming that all parties reach some form of consensus on exactly what the approach should be. Some might argue that that clarity was already provided by the judges in their ruling. But Google, it's fair to surmise, is likely to do its best to disrupt the process, given its repeated and partially successful PR attempts to trash the decision to date. ®

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