If you're a Google user living in Europe, congratulations -- you just got back some of your privacy rights and the ability to clear your good name from the clutches of Internet malcontents -- or from your own sordid past.

Earlier this month, The EU (European Union) Court of Justice ruled in favor of a Spanish man who wanted to have links to his personal data scrubbed from Google search results. Google handles about 90 percent of all Web searches originating in Europe.

This judgment is a "right to be forgotten" ruling, and is now considered part of a 1995 European Data Protection Law. The court declared that the privacy rights of private individuals superceded general public interest.

Reaction to the ruling in the United States has been mixed. Google, of course, is not pleased, if only due to the sheer complexity and cost of the effort that it will take to comply with the court's ruling.

"The court's ruling requires Google to make difficult judgments about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right to know," said a Google spokesperson.

The company must seek removal experts in each of 28 European Union countries (and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) for starters. Approximately 500 million people live in these affected areas.

There are many in the U.S. who believe that the impact of the ruling will certainly not be limited to Europe, For example, a somewhat hyperbolic viewpoint was expressed by Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"Americans will find their searchers bowdlerized by prissy European sensibilities. We'll be the big losers. The big winners will be French ministers who want the right to have their last mistress forgotten," said Baker.

However (and in a nod to Dr. Strangelove), no need to worry about our precious bodily fluids yet, General Ripper - er. Mr. Baker; U.S. privacy laws already address some of these issues in specific examples, such as protecting the identity and dissemination of information about children. Also, any attempt at cloning the EU decision for use in the United States would likely result in serious First Amendment issues that would probably be insurmountable.

For now, Google has created a web form that users can submit to have Internet links removed. Along with filling out the request, users must also submit additional personal information as well as a photo ID.

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