Google has launched a new service allowing European citizens to request the removal of information about themselves from its search results.

The service, announced on Thursday, is the first step to comply with an EU court ruling affirming the "right to be forgotten".

The world's largest search engine, which processes more than 90 percent of web searches in Europe, said it had made a form available through which people could submit their requests.

The company said it would assess each request and try to "balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information".

Decisions on whether to remove information about a person will take into account whether there is a public interest in the information, such as information about professional malpractice, criminal convictions and the public conduct of government officials. 

The company also said it had convened a committee of senior Google executives and independent experts to try and craft a long-term approach to dealing with the requests.

The California-based firm is expected to receive a significant number of requests from the continent's half a billion residents.

To make a request, an individual would have to submit an online copy of ID documents such as a driver's licence or a passport.

The ruling by the EU puts Google in a tricky situation as it tries to interpret the broad criteria for objectionable links, the Reuters news agency reported.

The company will also face logistical challenges as it will receive requests in various languages, and from countries in which it has no operations. 

Failure to remove links that meet the EU's broad criteria for take-down can result in fines, but it is not clear when Google will begin to respond to requests.

Google has criticised the ruling, which it said contradicted a non-binding opinion from the European Court of Justice adviser last year that deleting sensitive information from search results would interfere with freedom of expression.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies