You may be surprised to hear Google’s view on the right to be forgotten. The EU Supreme Court’s decision last year that anyone and everyone within Europe should have the right to be forgotten on the internet, if he or she wishes to be.
This means that if one of us wishes for a specific piece of information to just vanish from all search engines, we are allowed to place a formal request to Google. The search engine giant is consequently compelled to review our request and decide whether to abide by our decision to remove it or not.
Yet, this is the exact problem that Google seems to be having with the decision.
Last year, when the highest ranking court in the European Union ruled that the right to be forgotten on the web should be a thing, people here in America looked over the Atlantic with raised eyebrows, skeptical and weary. Would this be another obstacle in the way of free circulation of information? Up until now, it has not been so.
There’s a strong ethical conundrum here and Google is tied up in it like someone trying to unravel the tape of a cassette. After the decision to make this law, Google’s own CEO, Larry Page complained that the search engine, in reviewing link deletion requests, is now forced to decide what constitutes private information, and if that information actually deserves to be removed from the internet.
There have been strange cases where this did not go too well. For instance, Google removed a 2011 Telegraph story about Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass-murderer responsible for 77 deaths in a bomb attack. The article contained sections of Breivik’s plan for the next world war. Google did not disclose why the story was taken down, as it is not allowed to, yet it could have said the name on the request, but didn’t.
Still, the above mentioned case is only in the 1% of exceptions which could inflame public opinion. A report by The Guardian specifies that 99% of the removal requests accepted by Google were simple cases of information ceasing to be relevant about a specific person. Since the ruling, the search engine has received close to one million requests, of which 44% were honored.
Still, the debate goes on. Although many have since seen the logic behind the EU’s move on privacy, the French watchdog wants to go a step further. According to the right to be forgotten law passed by the country in 1995, the newest one should also apply to all Google sub-sites, no matter where they are from, ensuring that the information cannot be found by using a different version of Google than the one you are assigned.
Image Source: indexoncensorship.org