Science & Tech

Google inadvertently published a load of data on 'right to be forgotten' requests

Google has inadvertently published data on nearly 220,000 "right to be forgotten" requests that have never been made public before.

An investigation by the Guardian found that Google had accidentally held the information in the source code in its "transparency report", which was only meant to "give a flavour" of the requests being made.

The "right to be forgotten" ruling, which was made by the European Court of Justice in May last year, granted EU citizens the right to demand search results about them that were no longer relevant to stop being shown on search engines.

The Guardian reports that only around five per cent of requests to remove information on the search engine have come from "criminals, politicians and high-profile public figures" - which tend to dominate the headlines.

Instead, the vast majority come from ordinary people wishing to remove things like names, addresses and personal histories. The paper cites the example of a woman who was mentioned in several articles that referenced her husband's death and another who had contracted HIV over a decade ago.

The Guardian says it came across the information when analysing archived versions of the report.

The information has now been removed (although an analysis of it has been archived here), with Google explaining that the data was "part of a test to figure out how we could best categorise requests".

"We discontinued that test in March because the data was not reliable enough for publication," Google explained. "We are however currently working on ways to improve our transparency reporting."

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