Web content that appears in Google search results, including content associated with a person’s identity, can be removed on request. This action, which is the right to de-listing, aims to protect privacy on the internet. This provision, which can be requested in different circumstances, is however far from systematic.
Under what circumstances can we use a Google de-listing?
It is not uncommon to come across, during an internet search, content relating to one’s private life. This information, which may be true or false, is not always to the liking of the individuals indexed. Thus, in order to protect themselves and save their reputation on the internet and in the world, it is possible for them to request a deletion from the search engine. The Google de-listing intervenes when the search engine indexes the personal information of an individual and that it asserted its right to be forgotten. Concretely, this concerns personal information accumulated on certain websites as well as photos, videos and any other content that is detrimental to his person.
In France, the National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) has enacted a list of 13 criteria that may justify the right to be de-listed on search engines. Among these, you must first and foremost be a natural person. The case of minors is privileged. Then, it is necessary to prove the inaccuracy of the information or their offensive, defamatory, slanderous nature or that they reflect a personal opinion and not a proven fact. The same applies to sensitive content linked to race, ethnicity, religious convictions, political or philosophical opinions, trade union membership, health or sex life. Once these contents are likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on the private or professional life of the complainant, they can be dereferenced.
The legal framework for the right to de-listing Google
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) paved the way for the right to be forgotten on the internet with a judgment in May 2014. According to the legal body, any individual has the possibility of asking the companies that operate a search engine to dereference the results linked to its identity. This request is made subject to certain conditions relating to the right to have access to information of the general public. The CJEU invites Google and its subsidiaries to delete and dereference from their SERP (Search Engine Result Page), all data prejudicial to the privacy of individuals.
The general data protection regulation, which entered into force on 25 May 2018, also established this right. Its scope and limits were then clarified by the CJEU in two new judgments of September 24, 2019, taken in response to the request of the French Council of State which issued 13 thirteen decisions in this context on December 6, 2019.
In the event that Google refuses to accede to a de-listing request, the person concerned can apply to the CNIL or to the high courts of their region. The dispute does not necessarily imply obtaining satisfaction.
How to get a Google de-listing?
To obtain the dereference of a content, the steps are carried out entirely on the Internet. It all starts with the completion of an internet content removal request form by the requester. The latter must specify his first and last names, as well as his e-mail address in the document. He must also indicate the URL of the page he wishes to see excluded from Google indexing while taking care to specify the reasons for the request. A supporting copy of the identity of the complainant supports the request which is electronically signed by the entry of his name.
In addition, the reputation and function of the data subject, their age, the nature of the content as well as the possible repercussions that their referencing is likely to have for the data subject determine the referencing. The consequence of this action, following a search, the deletion will generate URLs that lead to empty pages. An evaluation of the requests allows Google to take into account the requests for referencing.
The limits of Google de-listing
At first glance, the Google de-listing currently only concerns European countries. It is not global, so Google does not have to systematically dereference results on all versions across the globe.
Then, dereferencing on the internet is not an absolute right, because Google is not necessarily required to take all requests into consideration. Some are outright rejected. Information of public interest such as professional negligence, criminal convictions, scams remain in Google’s index.
Furthermore, Google de-referencing does not really lead to the deletion of the offending information from the source websites. Indeed, the contents remain unchanged and therefore accessible directly on the site at the origin of the distribution. Thus, to delete the information on the source site, it is necessary to favor a request for deletion from the person in charge of the site. Anyone can ask site owners to remove URLs from posts and articles mentioning it.