Google says it has received 18,304 requests from Britons asking it to remove information about their past under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation.
The submissions came from more than 6,000 people who asked the search engine to erase links to more than 60,000 websites.
Altogether just over 145,000 requests have been made to Google by people across Europe wanting to improve their reputations.
That is an average of 1,000 a day since last May when the process began.
The controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ law covers the 28 countries in the EU, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
According to Google, the highest number of requests have come from France (29,010), followed by Germany (25,078) and then Britain.
Altogether the submissions covered more than 497,000 web links, of which 42% – more than 200,000 – have been jettisoned.
Among all websites, Facebook’s social network has had the most links erased so far – 3,332 – while Google’s own YouTube video site has had nearly 2,400 removed.
Even when blocked from Google’s search results in Europe, however, content can still appear in listings posted in other parts of the world, including the US.
Under the new law EU citizens can request that links to “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” information be removed from Google search results.
In short, Google must remove articles if the impact on the individual’s privacy is greater than the public’s right to find it, the European Union Court of Justice found.
The legislation has been widely criticised for allowing murderers, rapists and paedophiles to bury information about their past and for undermining freedom of speech.
It followed a landmark case brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy.
Google has given examples of links which have been deleted including one to old article about the murder of a woman’s husband in Italy. This was removed because the story mentioned the wife.
The company says it has turned down requests from financial professionals seeking to remove links to material describing arrests or convictions for past misconduct.
It also rejected a demand from a “media professional” in the UK to erase four links to embarrassing content.
There are fears the whitewashing of search results could extend beyond the EU after a Japanese judge ruled Google should remove information that suggested a man once had ties to a criminal organisation.