One of the most interesting Internet privacy shows is happening this summer in Europe.

Since the end of May, Google has fielded requests from nearly 100,000 Europeans asking for the removal from Google search results of more than 300,000 website links under the new "Right to be Forgotten" rule. Europe's highest court said in May that people had a right to ask that information about them be removed from Internet search results.

The rule's implementation, though specific to Europe, could be an indication of the myriad privacy issues Americans and others around the world will grapple with as consumers push back for control of information about them on the Internet.

FILE- In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors of the Google company work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo at
FILE- In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors of the Google company work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo at the industrial fair Hannover Messe in Hanover, Germany. (Jens Meyer/AP Photo)

In California, we won't have to wait long. The state's eraser button law will go into effect in January, allowing kids and teens under 18 to take down information they themselves posted.

Google hasn't revealed many details about the Right to be Forgotten requests it has received -- granting 53 percent of them -- so it is hard to gauge what the company faces, as well as other search engines that will have to comply. "We're doing our very best to comply quickly and responsibly," said a Google representative.

The ruling is "a profound constitutional moment," said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. "It's going to take time to sort out."


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But in the meantime, it's Google on the hot seat.

Even though I have concerns about the rule, I'm sure there are many legitimate reasons to petition for a website to be removed from search results. Victims of revenge porn, for example, should be able to seek ways to make it harder to find explicit photos of them just by Googling their names.

But from what Google has reported, the search giant has had to essentially play Internet God, deciding with little guidance and on a case-by-case basis which websites that have legal, truthful information should be delisted from Google search results because the subject says the information is irrelevant, outdated or excessive, the European criteria.

Google has heard from journalists asking that links to their own articles be removed because they no longer work for the publications, it told regulators last week.

Some people have petitioned to have multiple website addresses removed that are actually about a different person with the same name. And Google has fielded requests from people who took part in a rally over an unpopular cause, but want it to be harder to find the link to a photo or an article featuring them.

"We generally have to rely on the requester for information, without assurance beyond the requester's own assertions as to its accuracy," said Google.

In essence, regulators are asking Google and search engine firms to do exactly the opposite of what they have been built to do, said Emma Llanso, director of the free expression project at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

"Search engines have the goal of making accessible information that is publicly available online," she said. Asking them to deem inappropriate what are essentially relevant search results "is asking them to make a very counterintuitive kind of decision."

And of course, not everyone is happy with how Google is playing its part. Rock meet hard place.

Some European regulators have complained about Google's practice of informing website operators that a link has been removed from Google search. That has resulted in some publications running stories about the websites that are delisted and likely giving new exposure to the person making the request. Google says alerting website owners is in keeping with its practice in other cases like alleged copyright violations.

Another complaint -- the offending website may still be listed on Google.com, which anyone in the world can access. Google said fewer than 5 percent of Europeans use Google.com; most are travelers.

Google is hosting a series of forums in coming months about the ruling and has invited people to comment in an online forum. That rubs some the wrong way.

"If there's a lack of clarity, it's up to the European community to clarify," Rotenberg said. "It's not for Google to say what it thinks Europe needs to do."

If European regulators push to get sites off of Google.com, that would make the Right to be Forgotten the world's issue, said Christopher Wolf, head of Hogan Lovells' privacy practice and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum.

"The Internet is borderless," he said. "If their notion is that the ruling applies to the entire Internet, that is troubling."

We're not there yet.

But that's one of the many reasons it's worth keeping an eye on Europe.

Contact Michelle Quinn at 510-394-4196 and mquinn@mercurynews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/michellequinn.