LONDON — Google’s efforts to carry out a European court order on the “right to be forgotten” took another twist Friday as the company restored search-engine links to several newspaper articles from The Guardian whose delinking had stirred a public furor only a day earlier.
As Google once again declined to explain its decision-making, the episode underscored the potentially bewildering complexities of trying to remove information from the Internet when people request it.
Analysts and public officials, many critical of the way Google is carrying out the court order, say the tumult could have far wider implications. That is because the order, issued in May by the European Court of Justice, dealt with a right to be forgotten that would be much more broadly interpreted in a sweeping digital privacy law that is now the subject of discussions involving the European Parliament, the European Commission and leaders of the 28 member countries of the European Union.
With a new parliament still assembling after recent European elections — and a new European Commission taking over this year — the legislation’s prospects are difficult to handicap. The one certainty, political analysts say, is the Google controversy will galvanize lobbyists, whether they support or oppose the legislation.
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The recent court decision relates solely to search services like Google and Bing, which is run by Microsoft. But the European privacy legislation would affect any company or website that holds European customers’ digital information. The turmoil surrounding Google’s response to the European court decision could be multiplied and magnified when companies other than search engines — including social-media providers and e-commerce sites — are compelled to respond to people’s requests that their digital data be expunged.
“The scope of the new regulation will be much wider,” said Peter Church, an associate at the law firm Linklaters in London.
The court’s ruling “only applies to people’s names in search results,” he said, adding, “The new rules apply to more than just search engines.”
It is possible, of course, that if the legislation becomes law, it would provide clarity to a process Google seems, whether by choice or default, to be improvising as it goes along.
In Friday’s turnabout, the company told The Guardian that several links to its articles had been reinstated in Google’s European search service after the newspaper complained. Some of the articles were from 2010 about a soccer referee who had been accused of lying about why he had awarded a penalty kick in a match in Scotland.