Internet users can now spring clean their online reputations after Google agreed to consider removing some of its links.
Google’s new search removal request form means that anyone in Europe can now ask for specific links to be removed from the search engine.
You need to supply a reason, and some photo ID, but the process is pretty quick.
I’ve spent a happy morning pruning some of the more embarrassing photos from my past – just to see how the mechanism works, of course.
The web form, though, is only the first step.
Google is working on a brand new process to actually process the request (my embarrassing photos are currently sitting in a queue).
Each case will be looked at by a human, not an algorithm.
That human will weigh the right to forget against the public interest, and make a decision, according to guidelines currently being drawn up by Google’s new privacy committee.
If that decision is “tough luck, Jimbo”, the case will be sent to the sender’s country’s Information Commission, who will decide what further action to take.
There will be a deluge – Sky News understands there have already been several thousand requests.
Sorting through them will take time and money. Microsoft is understood to be looking at the issue too, with regards to the Bing search engine.
There’s also been a noticeable softening from Google. While the company is still worried about possible abuses of the system and effects on the free flow of information, it understands individuals’ concerns and wants to start a discussion.
Google co-founder Larry Page said the company will be “more European” and start talking more.
It’s not quite the end of the free internet, as some would have you believe, nor is it the much-trumpeted “right to be forgotten”.
It’s in between: another small step in what will be a messy, sometime contentious affair, making up these new rules along the way.
Google will look at each request on a case-by-case basis, and it’s on a case-by-case basis that we’ll – eventually – arrive at a new definition of online privacy and rights.