BBC economics editor Robert Peston woke up to a surprising email from Google this morning. Google had stripped a blog post he wrote seven years ago from their European search results, complying with new measures that require sites to honor the "right to be forgotten" online.
Here's what Google sent Peston:
Notice of removal from Google Search: we regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google:
The post was removed because someone who was discussed in it asked Google to "forget" them. In the original article, Peston only named one particular individual, Stan O'Neal, a former executive at Merrill Lynch. That narrows down who put in the request to Google with great ease.
Peston describes his post as a discussion of "how O'Neal was forced out of Merrill after the investment bank suffered colossal losses on reckless investments it had made." The post did not outwardly attack O'Neal, nor was it "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant," which are the requirements set for being "forgotten."
This plays directly into fears that Google would allow illegitimate requests to slip through the cracks, "forgetting" search results that remain relevant, and undermining the freedom of journalism. Google's "forgetting" process is still in its infancy, since the court ruling that created this situation is less than two months old. While they have hired "an army of paralegals," they are receiving thousands of requests, which even an army would have a difficult time processing perfectly. Peston plans to appeal his forgotten blog post. Google has not yet responded to his appeal.