Monday, June 02, 2014

Right To Be Forgotten

A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know.

-- Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, on the decision by a European court that search engines must consider individuals' requests to remove links to information about them, New York Times, 30 May 2014

1 comment:

Don Appleman said...

This struck me as one of the dumbest decisions of all time. On 13 May, the EU's court of justice ruled that links to "irrelevant" and outdated data on search engines should be erased on request.

The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home, which appeared on Google's search results, infringed his privacy.

I can accept that the judges believe that an individual should not have to permanently bear the scarlet letter of some decades-old transgression. But the way to do that, if such a right exists, seems to be to remove the decades-old, embarassing material. Pruning the search results of Google is just a form of denying that the content is still hosted and publicly available. I'm surprised I don't hear this angle discussed.

If the finding is only against Google, then other search engines have Google at a competitive disadvantage, since they can report the "truth" of what's publicly available on the web, while Google is forced to deny that it knows about those same materials. And if it does apply to all search engines, then how is it enforced? What's a search engine? What about the Wayback Machine / Internet Archive, which stores historical documents (apparently not a problem), but also provides a method of searching those archives for content (apparently a problem)?