The decision in Google Spain gave data subjects the “right to delist” – to require search engines to remove links to personal data which was “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”. Google’s transparency report shows that it has received 53,913 removal requests relating to 202,846 URLs from individuals with relationships to the UK. It has removed a total of 78,704 URLs or 38.8%.
This is a lower percentage of removals than the European average (43%) and is much lower than the figures for Germany (48.5%) or France (49%). In the whole EU Google has, to date, received 440,620 requests relating to 1.54 million URLs and has removed over 662,000.
Removal requests can be made by completing Google’s webform. Unsuccessful applicants can refer the matter to the ICO or bring proceedings under the Data Protection Act 1998. At present, the number of cases being dealt with by the ICO is low (120 in the first year) and no cases against Google have yet been tried by the English courts. In November 2014 the EU Article 29 Working Party adopted Guidelines on the implementation of the Google Spain judgment.
The question as to the geographical extent of Google’s delisting responsibilities remains controversial. Google Inc takes the view that it only needs to implement delisting on the Google search engines accessed from the country of the person making the request. In contrast, the French Data Protection Regulator, CNIL, has interpreted these as requiring the removal of links globally and it has issued a decision to that effect. Google has, in turn, announced that it is appealing the decision. There is an interesting discussion of the issues by Zoe Bedell on the Lawfare blog.
The following table (see Search Engine Land) summarises the reasons given for removal requests and the grounds given by Google for refusing the request: