Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

How does Google's 'right to be forgotten' work? Actual question, not rhetorical trope :) #R2BF

Possibly this will be solved by 'reading more around the topic' but I've not spotted the answer yet and someone must know.

How does Google's "right to be forgotten" info removal service actually work?

If there is a web page that says stuff you don't like do you ask Google to
(a) stop indexing that page / those pages in the searches (ie provide Google with a list of pages for it to hide)
(b) not show in its search results any pages that mention specific keywords
(c) some other method

If (a) then presumably this can easily be thwarted by reposting the content onto a new page with a new address.

Also Google indexes most things on Twitter (admittedly transiently) so if someone was determined they could keep posting stuff there and it would show up in Google (as well as, obviously, on Twitter).

I can see (b) being mildly more successful but Google would have to throttle at the level of search, to prevent each new page with those words showing up. This seems like a lot of hard work.

Also, aren't there sites that monitor the requests made (similar to the site that monitors requests for material under copyright to be removed). They've written on the right to be forgotten but I've not spotted the method Google's using.

If there are, don't bother looking in Google, just go to the relevant site and search there. Eg a Telegraph article I read this morning on R2BF suggests that Google has removed some of the Telegraph's links (suggesting method [a]...) on its search results about someone after they requested it, but searching on the Telegraph's site for the person mentioned in the article brings up other information, whether or not it's indexed on Google.

I'm sure the ethics, privacy, free speech aspects of this are all very interesting but what I'm actually intrigued by is just the practicalities.


  1. Many sites use Google's site search service for searching within their own sites, so presumably if results would be removed from a generic Google search then they'd also not show up in site searches for sites that use that service.

    1. Good point, yes. One of our work sites uses Google for precisely this purpose... although I don't know how that works either (ie if Google is actually providing the search results or if some search functionality is 'imported' into the site and run locally).

    2. I'm fairly certain this is equivalent to using the site: operator (for example, here's one I used earlier tonight: [ chondroitin]), so if that's the case I expect the same restrictions would apply.

      Although I don't have a reference on me I'm fairly certain I've read that it only affects results from European versions of Google, much like how is restricted in ways that don't affect I'm not sure how that would work with their site search API.


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