A lot of Europeans have done things they don't want the rest of us to know about, apparently.
Last month, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that search engines must remove “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data about individuals who request that those links be taken down. And ever since, Google has been inundated with requests.
The requests to be forgotten began flooding in after Google — reluctantly — posted a “forget me” form on its website for European web users wanting to submit an application for the removal of embarrassing search results.
In the first four days after making the option available, the internet giant received more than 41,000 requests — that's an average of about seven a minute. (They might be sad to learn that the removed links will still be visible outside of the EU.)
The requests are still rolling in.
Google processes 90 percent of web searches in Europe, so Yahoo and Bing will have a lot less work on their hands.
This is how Google plans to respond to requests:
If Google refuses a request, the individual can pursue the case in court.
Criminals, understandably, have been quick to exercise their new right. One "forget me" request came from a man who had been convicted of child porn possession. Another request came from a man who tried to kill his family. For obvious reasons, these men would prefer that the internet forget their crimes.
But non-criminals have plenty to hide as well, and there's a long list of Europeans who are probably thinking about exercizing their right alongside the many thousands of people who already have.
Here are a few people for whom internet oblivion (even if only in Europe) would go some way to alleviating their on-going public humiliation.
Remember Cecilia Gimenez, the elderly parishioner in Spain who took it upon herself to restore a 19th century Jesus Christ fresco by Spanish painter Elias Garcia Martinez, but instead of fixing it managed to destroy it?
She will need to copy/paste a lot of URLs into her "forget me"request form.
British builder Tom Annandale would probably want Europe to forget about his disastrous attempt at streaking on a tennis court in Spain. Annandale didn’t realize the court was enclosed by a glass wall. A video of him running straight into the transparent barrier went viral.
This Swedish man - or rather his wife - would probably like links to the video of his bizarre bachelor party scrubbed from the web. The 17-second clip shows the groom, dressed in a panda suit, carrying a live chicken and running through a small fire. He goes up in flames, tosses away the defenseless bird, and jumps into a lake.
Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg would probably like to erase references his embarrassing plagiarism scandal. In 2011, Guttenberg was stripped of his doctorate after he admitted copying significant chunks of his thesis from other sources, which earned him the nicknames “minister for cut and paste” and “Baron zu Googleberg.”