Making Google Forget

How hard is it to get Google to forget a page it once knew well? I’m finding out the hard way.

A professor approached me and explained that a two-year-old student story on our site contained verfiably incorrect information — originally supplied to the student by the D.A. The story incorrectly labeled a person as a pedophile. Today, that person is in prison for totally unrelated reasons. And in prison, being tagged as a pedophile can bring serious consequences from other inmates. The prof was worried that an inmate might find the story and go ape on the guy.

I immediately removed the story from our site. Then we realized that Google was holding onto the cached version. Finding info about cache removal on Google’s site was tricky. You have to sign up for a special account (my existing GMail acct was not sufficient). I received a confirmation email, clicked the link in it as instructed, and was told my account could not be found, even though it had just been created. Thinking maybe they needed database sync time, I waited a day. Still no dice. Correspondence with Google on the matter took about one day per reply. Finally they suggested I create a new account. I did.

This time, when I clicked the link to confirm the account, I was taken to a page on Google’s servers written entirely in Chinese. Again, began correspondence with them on the problem. They had no good answers, seemed mystified. After more experimentation on my part, discovered that the page only appeared in Chinese in some browsers — freaky deaky.

Finally I was able to confirm the account and request cache removal. The process was easy, and I was instructed to wait up to 24 hours for the cached page to be removed. That was Oct. 7. Today is the 12th, and the cached version is still up. A man’s fate potentially hangs in the balance. And I’m again waiting for a response from Google.

Music: Robert Wyatt :: Maryan

5 Replies to “Making Google Forget”

  1. That was my question too, and I’m not sure of the answer – I can imagine this happening in some low-security facilities, but not high. I’ll ask the prof about this, post the answer here.

  2. You should bear in mind that the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) probably has a copy of that page too.

    It too has a removal policy/mechanism (mail wayback2@archive.org)- I’d hope it works a little more reliably/quickly than Google.

    Let me know if it seems to be taking a long time or is ‘tricky’ and I’ll try and speak to someone there about the situation.

  3. Larry, I spoke to the prof – the concern isn’t really that inmates are surfing the web, but that information travels, like cigarettes, between the inside and the outside, and between cell walls.

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