Microsoft is clearly taking a cautious stance on the European Union’s “right to be forgotten;” several weeks after Google started accepting requests to scrub yourself out of search results, you can finally ask for the same treatment on Bing. The company has posted a form that walks EU residents through the request process, giving them a relatively easy way to block offending pages from showing up in queries. With that said, Microsoft isn’t making things too easy. It obviously learned a lesson or two from Google’s early experiences, where some people misused the system to hide negative press and otherwise rewrite history. You have to reveal whether or not you’re a public figure, explain the reasons behind your request, and otherwise prove that you aren’t just trying to squelch “free expression.” It won’t be shocking if some applicants lie about themselves in an attempt to silence criticism, but there are enough protective measures in place that the crew in Redmond can theoretically spot bogus demands before it’s too late.
Microsoft Corp on Wednesday started taking requests from individuals in Europe who want to be removed from its Bing search engine results following a court judgment in May guaranteeing the “right to be forgotten.” Microsoft, whose Bing search engine has 2.5 percent of the European search market, follows market leader Google Inc which complied with the ruling in May, and started removing some search results last month. The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union in May ordered Google to remove a link to a 15-year-old newspaper article about a Spanish man’s bankruptcy, effectively upholding people’s “right to be forgotten” on the Internet. The ruling, which affects the EU’s 500 million citizens, requires that Internet search services remove information deemed “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.” Failure to do so can result in fines. It only applies to EU countries, meaning links that have been removed in Europe will still appear in search results elsewhere, including the United States. Microsoft’s form, available on its Bing website (here), is a four-part questionnaire. Microsoft advises those interested in completing the questionnaire that it will “help us to consider the balance between your individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, consistent with European law.” The form states that making a request does not guarantee that a particular search result will be blocked. European privacy concerns, and tech companies’ sensitivity to them, have exploded in the past year after former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of mass U.S. surveillance programs involving European citizens and some heads of state.