Thousands of Europeans are scrambling to take advantage of a new legal right to force Google to delete search results about them.
Since the process began several months ago, Google has received 144,954 requests to delete 497,695 pages from its search engine, the company revealed in a report Friday.
But Google actually rejected most of the requests under the "right to be forgotten." The company granted 41.8 percent of the requests to scrub links.
Facebook was the most common site that people tried to hide from search results, followed by profileengine.com, a site that archives social-media information. Google's own YouTube came in third.
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were the top sources of requests to delete links, according to the report.
"We believe it's important to be transparent about how much information we're removing from search results while being respectful of individuals who have made requests," Jess Hemerly, a public-olicy manager at Google, said in a blog post. "Releasing this information to the public helps hold us accountable for our process and implementation."
The top European court ruled in May that companies must delete "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant" pages. The ruling was based on Europe's privacy laws, which are much more expansive than those in the U.S. People argued they shouldn't be haunted for their whole lives by embarrassing Web pages.
But free-speech advocates have condemned the ruling, warning it will lead to widespread censorship on the Internet.
Emma Llanso, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, applauded Google for providing more transparency about the process.
"Transparency reports from the search engines will provide essential information about the scale and nature of information that individuals are hoping to obscure, which should inform the debate going forward," she said, adding that European legislators should ensure that companies are allowed to issue detailed public reports about "right to be forgotten" requests.
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