The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) says that it expects to receive complaints "soon" from people who have had requests to remove personal details from Google's index of links turned down.
The comments came as the Guardian established that is removing links for any searches that include terms affiliated with complainants' names, not just those which include the name alone, as was suggested last week.
The search giant's removal of some links from its database – following a court ruling in May by the European Court of Justice that has been dubbed a "right to be forgotten" – has also been criticised by some campaigners who say that it is removing links that are still relevant.
Following the ruling, Google has implemented a system where individuals can make a legally binding statement, requesting particular links be removed from searches on their name. The web pages with the information remain.
On Friday, Google's director for communications in Europe, Peter Barron, Radio 4's Today program that most search terms would still work to find pages. He gave the example of a blogpost by BBC economics editor Robert Peston, where one of the commenters had apparently requested removal.
"Only if you search for the very narrow term of the name of the commentator would it not appear [on a Google search]," Barron said.
But the Guardian has now established from sources familiar with Google's process that "queries that involve the name and other terms will also have the same effect" of hiding the pages complained about. "It wouldn't make sense if you could simply add an extra term and negate the restriction," the source said. But the person also emphasised that Google search results will still include the page, and that "wider terms" which don't use the name will still turn up the page.
The ICO, which is the arbiter for disputes between search engines and people who want links removed, told the Guardian that it has not yet received any complaints from people seeking to get their names removed from the search index. But it expects to, based on the sheer volume of requests Google is receiving, which are now running at about 1,000 per day across .
The ICO said however that publishers and other third parties which are notified about removal of links to their pages will not be able to complain to the ICO about it, because "they are not the data subject" – that is, the person affected by the content of the page.
Last week the Guardian complained to Google about the removal of a number of pages from 2010 and 2011 about a high-profile figure from its index via name-based search. Google rapidly reinstated them.
But the removal of links is proving hugely controversial. The Guardian has been contacted by members of a pressure group about Collins & Bone, a now-defunct UK company which in 2010 sought investors for a business which aimed to renovate houses and then rent them to students. An investigation by the British government's Insolvency Service that Liam Collins and David Bone should be disqualified from directorships for a total of 28 years.
Collins, a former semi-finalist on Britain's Got Talent, complained to Google on 19 May, less than a week after the ECJ ruling, demanding that links to a blog critical of him and his business partner be removed. But as Google did not have a process for dealing with such claims, it was also . The blog seems to still appear in Google's UK results, but campaigners who say they were defrauded fear that it may soon be removed. Collins could not be contacted for comment.
Meanwhile the largest European search rival to Google, Microsoft's Bing, has not responded to multiple requests to clarify how it will deal with similar requests from EU citizens. Bing has about 5% of the search market in some parts of Europe, along with Yahoo. On 12 June Microsoft said that "developing the appropriate system is taking us some time" – although Google had begun work on it. "We'll be providing additional information about making requests soon," a spokesperson told the Guardian.