Google has confirmed that it will begin to use geolocation this week in order to ensure its “right to be forgotten” policy is enforced across the European Union. The tech giant first started censoring results back in 2014, but there had previously been a loophole that allowed users to continue to access the delisted information if they used non-European versions of the search engine.
Google revealed last year that it had already removed over 440,000 links following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, which now allows EU citizens to request that content they deem to be private should not be visible in search engines, even if the links are not deleted from the internet entirely. Users within Europe will now be subjected to the same restricted results as Google extends its censorship worldwide.
“Starting next week, in addition to our existing practice, we will also use geolocation signals (like IP addresses) to restrict access to the delisted URL on all Google Search domains, including google.com, when accessed from the country of the person requesting the removal,” Google said in a statement published at the weekend. “We’ll apply the change retrospectively, to all delistings that we have already done under the European Court ruling.”
The “right to be forgotten” policy has been controversial since its inception, as free speech advocates have claimed it restricts access to public information, while others have deemed it an important part of privacy protection. Google added that it is working hard to “find the right balance” in its implementation of the European Court’s ruling and that it would continue to work closely with data protection authorities going forward.
The new changes will only affect users in the EU, so for example, if an individual in the UK makes a request to remove a listing from Google, the link will then be censored for everyone in the UK using any version of Google and for those in the EU browsing with a European version. Essentially, it will be worldwide censorship for users within the country where the request for removal is made.