The 'Right to be forgotten' law introduced by the European Union has led to Google removing from some of its search results, an entry from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
The landmark EU ruling introduced last May, allows Europeans to ask for links to "irrelevant" and outdated personal data to be removed from search engines. The Wikipedia incident, marks the first time an entry on the online encyclopaedia has been targeted.
The ruling has been the subject of much controversy since the decision by European Union Court of Justice (ECJ). While the law has been welcomed by some privacy advocates, many groups have said it contravenes the right to free speech, with some even calling it censorship.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has expressed his opposition to the law.
Mr Wales said: "The law as it stands right now is quite confusing. We have this one ruling of the ECJ which is very open-ended and very hard to interpret.”
"I would say the biggest problem we have is that the law seems to indicate Google needs to censor links to information that is clearly public - links to articles in legally published, truthful news stories. That is a very dangerous path to go down, and certainly if we want to go down a path where we are going to be censoring history, there is no way we should leave a private company like Google in charge of making those decisions."
Google has received more than 100,000 removal requests in the months since the law was imposed, and other search engines, such as Bing, have also implemented procedures to accept public requests.
In a letter to the EU published recently, Google also made public its process for delisting links when asked by the subject of contested articles, pictures or other online postings. The letter, signed by Google Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer, explains how the system works and what privacy measures are in place. The search giant also revealed which countries have made the most requests for links to be removed from search results under the new law.
Google said 5,500 requests have been made under Dutch law, 7,500 under Italian law, and 8,000 under Spanish law. The UK has seen 12,000 requests referring to around 44,000 URLs, while Germany comes in second with 16,500 requests in reference to around 57,000 URLs.
The country with the most requests is France. 17,500 requests have been made under French law, involving around 58,000 URLs.
Google also disclosed that of all the requests made across Europe, 53 percent have been delisted as requested. 32 percent of requests have been denied and the search results remained available, while the remainder have seen Google request more information from the requester.
After an individual fills in the online form with details of the search terms they want excised, each request is evaluated individually by people at Google, guided by a panel of independent experts.
Links are delisted from Google search, image search and Google News. Only Google's search results for the specified search term are altered -- not the news stories, blog posts and other online postings themselves. They can still be found by searching for other search terms or by using other versions of Google -- using Google.com instead of Google.co.uk, for instance.