Bing follows Google in offering Europeans the 'right to be forgotten'

Microsoft has started accepting requests from users in Europe who want to remove search links from Bing under a recent “right-to-be-forgotten” ruling by Europe’s top court.

The company has asked European residents, who want Microsoft to block search results that show on Bing in response to searches of their names, to fill up a four-part online form.

Besides the name and country of residence of the person and the details of the pages to be blocked, the form also asks if the person is a public figure or has or expects a role that involves trust, leadership or safety.

Microsoft does not guarantee removal of links after they are submitted for removal through the form. It will also consider other sources of information to verify or supplement what is provided in the form.

The information provided will help the company “consider the balance” between the applicant’s individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, in line with European law, Microsoft said.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in May that people who want search engines to remove search results referring to their names can file a request directly with the search engine operator, which must evaluate the request. A refusal by the operator can be appealed in a court.

Google, which set up its removal request form in May, said that since the CJEU ruling, it has received over 70,000 take-down requests covering more than 250,000 Web pages.

Search engines can be asked to remove results for queries that include an applicant’s name if those results are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed,” the court ordered. In deciding what to remove, search engines must also consider the public interest, Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper. “These are, of course, very vague and subjective tests,” he added.

Amidst a controversy over the ruling, Microsoft said that its form and the processes for removal of search links could change in view of “many questions” that have been raised on how the court ruling should be implemented. Google also described its form in May as an initial effort and said it would refine its approach after working closely with data protection authorities and others over the coming months.

Yahoo, another large search engine provider, has not yet offered a take-down mechanism in response to the court ruling. “In light of the European Court of Justice decision, our team is currently in the process of developing a solution for Yahoo users in Europe that we believe balances the important privacy and freedom of expression interests,” the company said.

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