If you search for someone’s name on Google in Europe, you’re greeted with an odd message at the bottom of search results:
Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.
This is because of the “right to be forgotten.” Thanks to a ruling by Europe’s top court, Europeans can apply to have websites about them removed from search results under certain circumstances.
The pages aren’t deleted, but you can’t find them via Google (or Bing, or Yahoo, etc.) — making them far, far harder to find.
The court’s ruling applies all across Europe. But Europeans wanted unfiltered search results, there was an easy way to get around it: Just visit Google.com, the US version of the site.
But this is no longer the case — The Financial Times reports that people searching using any version of Google from within Europe will now be greeted with the censored/filtered search results.
CNIL, the French data regulator, has been pursuing Google over the right to be forgotten, which it doesn’t think goes far enough. In June 2015, it called for Google to delist URLs when required worldwide — not just within Europe. The FT reports the CNIL is now “examining” Google’s latest move, which will come in over the next few months.
The right to be forgotten is a contentious subject, pitting privacy activists against freedom of speech advocates. The former argue that it is necessary so that people’s pasts do not hang over them forever, while the latter say it restricts internet users’ free access to information.
If Europeans are still desperate to access unfiltered results, there’s still one option available to them — using a VPN (virtual private network) or proxy to mask their true location.