How to remove yourself from the internet

Google, after a European court ruling, now must allow everyone the right to be forgotten online. As a result anyone can apply to have any web address linked to them removed from Google's search.

How can you remove yourself from the internet?

In reality you can't remove the data itself. What you can do is remove the search link to it. A bit like a room full of important files with the door bricked up. The room is still there but nobody is likely to ever get in, or even know it's there. Presuming the search comes from Europe - this ruling doesn't affect outside of that.

The "right to be forgotten" form is available to anyone who has the time and inclination to fill it out and send it to Google. This basically involves putting in a few details including name, email and relationship to the person in question, if you're a legal representative for example. Also, to avoid fraud, a form of ID must be attached to the form. Then for each link an explanation is needed to clarify why that link should be removed from Google's search results.

Who would want to remove themselves?

The court ruling has said that everyone should be given the right to be forgotten. Google says this is a dangerous move that shifts the balance from freedom of information being most important to the right to privacy being of utmost importance. It's been a hot issue in the UK for some years with laws still not set in stone on the subject.

Generally the links should be connecting a person to outdated or irrelevant data. Google says: "When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information." This includes looking at "financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials."

More than half of the requests sent to Google from the UK are from convicted criminals, says the BBC. This includes a man convicted of possessing child abuse images wanting pages about his conviction to be wiped.

When will the changes take effect and how?

Google says changes will start to appear from mid-June. Anyone searching for something that's been removed will be met with a notice about the removal having happened.

Decisions on what gets removed and what doesn't will be made by a board overseen by national data protection agencies. Even then the changes will only take effect on searches made in Europe. That means using Google.com instead of Google.co.uk will reveal results.

What does this mean for Google's future?

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, has said the ruling could damage innovation in the future. He also made the point that it could help oppressive regimes, allowing "other governments that aren't as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things".

As a result Google is going to get more involved in Europe in the future so it can fight for its rights in the future. He warned: "as we regulate the internet, I think we're not going to see the kind of innovation we've seen".



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