* Regulators aim to write guidelines for appeals by autumn
* Google scrubs European search results, not on Google.com
* Notifications of media outlets also proves controversial
By Leila Abboud and Julia Fioretti
PARIS/BRUSSELS, July 25 European regulators have
not yet decided whether to try to force search engines such as
Google and Microsoft's Bing to scrub results
globally when people invoke their "right to be forgotten" in the
Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin - who heads France's privacy
watchdog and the WP29 group of EU national data protection
authorities - said in an interview on Friday that no consensus
had yet been reached on what she called a "complicated issue".
The European Union's top court ruled in May that search
engines must take down certain results shown under a search of a
person's name if the information was "inadequate, irrelevant or
no longer relevant".
Although the "right to be forgotten" existed as a concept in
European law, the ruling marked the first time companies like
Google have been asked to field such requests from the public.
This thrust web companies into the uncomfortable position of
making judgment calls on individual cases, balancing rights to
personal privacy against the freedom of information.
Google's approach to date has been to remove links only from
European versions of its website, such as Google.de in Germany
or Google.co.uk in Britain, meaning they would still appear on
Microsoft and Yahoo have not yet said how they will
handle the issue.
Some national regulators and lawyers have said Google's
approach waters down the effectiveness of the ruling given how
easy it is to switch between the different versions.
"If you de-list only on Google.fr, for example, the right to
be forgotten is much weaker," said Pierrotin, adding that
regulators had quizzed the search engines on this topic at a
meeting on Thursday.
People have the right to appeal to their national data
protection regulator if the search engine refuses their request.
To ensure that such appeals are handled consistently, EU data
protection regulators plan to draft guidelines by this autumn.
About 50 such appeals have been filed so far across Europe.
"Our aim is not only to come up with operational guidelines
for regulators to use when judging these requests and appeals,
but also to ensure that the approach is legally sound and can be
defended in court," said Pierrotin.
A Google spokesman declined to comment on Friday.
Whether search engines should notify publishers and media
outlets when their stories have been delisted from search
results has emerged as another flashpoint.
Google's decision to notify press outlets via email sparked
a backlash in early July when the BBC and the Guardian wrote
stories about the removals, condemning them as a type of
censorship aimed at whitewashing the past.
In the Thursday Q&A session with search engines, regulators
pressed the companies to explain the legal basis for such
"Google's position is that it is required to provide such
notifications in the interest of transparency," said Pierrotin.
"Our concern is that these notifications generate a lot of
confusion, and in some ways undercut the request itself by
bringing people's names back into the open."
She said it remained to be seen whether the regulators would
seek to curtail Google's notifications.
"The court's decision opened a Pandora's Box," said
Pierrotin. "Everyone involved now has to figure out how to
handle these requests in a way that is operationally feasible
and legally defensible."
Google, which handles over 90 percent of searches in Europe,
had received over 90,000 requests across Europe by July 18, and
had accepted over half of them.
French residents submitted the most takedown requests,
filing 17,500 with Google, said a person close to the company.
Germany generated 16,500 requests, Britain 12,000 requests,
Spain 8,000, 7,500 from Italy, and 5,500 from the Netherlands.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)