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Google gets 348,085 'forget' requests in Europe
San Francisco (AFP) Nov 27, 2015

What's the carbon footprint of an email?
Paris (AFP) Nov 26, 2015 - A long list of seemingly harmless everyday actions contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other climate-altering greenhouse gases.

Driving a car and flipping a light switch have a clear "carbon footprint" -- much less obvious is the harm caused by sending a simple text message or opening a bottle of water.

Here is the environmental impact of some common activities:

Digital footprint

Sending even a short email is estimated to add about four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere.

To put this into perspective, the carbon output of hitting "send" on 65 mails is on par with driving an average-sized car a kilometre (0.6 of a mile).

The culprits are greenhouse gases produced in running the computer, server and routers but also those emitted when the equipment was manufactured.

It gets worse when you send an email with a large attachment, which puts about 50 gCO2e into the air. Five such messages are like burning about 120 grammes (0.27 pounds) of coal.

Receiving a spam message -- even if you do not open it -- has an environmental impact of 0.3 gCO2e.

The global carbon footprint from spam annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gases pumped out by 3.1 million passenger cars using 7.6 billion litres (two billion gallons) of gasoline in a year.

Here is something to keep in mind the next time you type in a non-essential Google enquiry: A web search on an energy-efficient laptop leaves a footprint of 0.2 gCO2e. On an old desktop computer, it is 4.5 gCO2e.

And that text message? It comes at a cost of about 0.014 gCO2e.

Paper or plastic?

Plastic grocery bags each have a carbon footprint of 10 gCO2e, but the paper ones are even worse at 40 gCO2e each.

Store-bought bottled water has nearly 1,150 times the emissions attached to it than a glass poured from the tap.

A 500-millilitre (one-pint) bottle is responsible for 160 gCO2e compared to 0.14 gCO2e for tap water.

A large cappuccino comes with a footprint of 235 gCO2e, partly because of the emissions from raising the cow which produced the milk. For a cup of home-made black tea or coffee for which just enough water was boiled, the figure is 21 gCO2e.

Leisure time

The bigger the TV, the bigger the cost in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Watching two hours of tube on a 24-inch (61-centimetre) plasma screen pumps out 440 gCO2e -- about the same as driving a car for 1.6 km.

The footprint is 68 gCO2e and 176 gCO2e respectively for two hours watched on a 15- or a 32-inch LCD screen.

A mile of cycling fuelled by a meal of bananas would be responsible for 65 gCO2e, compared to 260 gCO2e for a mile powered by cheeseburgers.


"How Bad Are Bananas?" by Mike Berners-Lee; Fifth Assessment Report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); McAfee study, "Carbon Footprint of Spam".

Since a top European court ruled people have a right to be forgotten online, Google has received 348,085 requests for tidbits to vanish from search results.

Silicon Valley-based Google, a subsidiary of newly-created parent company Alphabet, complied with less that half of the demands, basing decisions on criteria intended to balance privacy with the public's right to know.

A report released on Wednesday by Google showed that the top country for requests was France, where the Internet giant is in a standoff with data protection officials.

A European Court of Justice ruling in May 2014 recognizing the "right to be forgotten" on the net opened the door for Google users to ask the search engine to remove results about them that are inaccurate or no longer relevant.

Google set up an online form that people in Europe can fill out to ask for information to be excluded from search results.

Similar processes have been put in place to ask to be forgotten by Microsoft's Bing search engine that also powers queries at Yahoo.

It is the Internet companies themselves who get to decide which requests to grant.

Microsoft previously disclosed that in the first half of this year it got 3,546 requests that online information be forgotten by Bing, granting half of them.

In the report released on Wednesday, Google said that right-to-be-forgotten requests have targeted slightly more than 1.23 million Internet pages (URLs), and that it agreed to remove 42 percent of them from online search results in Europe.

- Some crimes vanish -

France was the country with the top number of requests, accounting for 73,399 applications aimed at nearly a quarter of a million URLs, followed by Germany with 60,198 requests concerning 220,589 URLs.

In both countries, about 48 percent of the unwanted links were eliminated from Google search results, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the report indicated that Google granted about 38 percent of the 43,101 requests submitted in the United Kingdom; 37 percent of the 33,106 requests in Spain, and just shy of 30 percent of the 26,186 requests made in fifth-placed Italy.

Google said it complied with nearly 46 percent of the 10,121 requests in Belgium, nearly 41 percent of the 9,687 requests in Sweden, and about 45 percent of the 8,339 requests in Switzerland.

A Google outline of scenarios leading to information being forgotten in searches included pages with content solely about someone's health, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Common causes for "delisting" pages also included criminal convictions regarding children or stories focusing on criminal charges that were subsequently overturned by courts.

Google said that it had endorsed requests from crime victims or their families to remove from search results news reports of rapes, murders or other assaults.

"We may decline to delist if we determined that the page contains information which is strongly in the public interest," Google said in an online post.

"Determining whether content is in the public interest is complex and may mean considering many diverse factors."

The list of factors included whether content relates to the petitioner's professional life, a past crime, political office, position in public life, or whether the content itself is self-authored content, government documents, or journalistic in nature, according to Google.

- Social network memories -

Facebook was the top online spot where people wanted information forgotten from searches, with a total of 10,220 URLs removed, according to Google.

The second most common venue for removals was, with 7,986 links to the people-focused search engine removed from Google search results, the report indicated.

The list of Top 10 sites for URLs to be forgotten included Google Groups, YouTube, Badoo, Annuaire, Twitter, and the Google+ social network.


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