Right to Be Forgotten Easier Said than Done!
This is the second week since European Union’s highest court ruled that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and other data mining company to give people the right to be forgotten. The ruling has been well received in European countries, but in the U.S. it is termed as ridiculous and retrogressive!
Already the California-based internet giant has begun receiving requests from people who want some of their private information be deleted from the search engine’s database. The company is working on the best way to implement the “right to be forgotten”, and probably it will establish an online tool to help in removing personal information.
About the Ruling
When you do a normal search on Google, it normally displays any information relating to the typed word. The information often includes pictures and links to stories that capture the searched word. On 13 May, the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled that a user had the right to force Google or any other search engine or data mining company to remove links to web pages about him. So if searches on your property or your name display horrendous results that you would like to be removed, you can now compel the company to do so!
The ruling was made in a case where a Spanish man sued Google for linking searches relating to his house to an auction notice of his now repossessed home. He argued that this act infringed his privacy. The court said that due to the passage of time, the notice became “irrelevant” and it was unjust to link such searches to the complainant repossessed home. Therefore Google was commanded to delink the search results as demanded by the complainant.
This ruling applied to other users as well, as they all had the right to be forgotten. The only exception was that if the data in question was of importance to the pubic life, then the search engine would be justified to keep it online.
The ruling has laid bare the societal difference between Europe and the U.S. While many people in Europe, especially Germany, Ireland and the U.K. have welcome the ruling, there has been an outcry in the U.S., especially in the Silicon Valley.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, says the right to be forgotten could round-down to internet censorship, given that it is difficult to tell which data to keep and which one to delete.
In Europe people value privacy, which on the internet has been a cause of concern to many. This is why the win over omnipresent Google is good news to them. On the other hand, in the U.S., freedom of speech and expression override privacy issues. In fact, New York Times editorial was quick to opine that the ruling would jeopardize press freedom.
The Implication of the Ruling
The ruling caught Google by a surprise and the company has not hidden its disappointment with the European court’s decision. The internet giant is still working on how to implement the demand. Already there are lots of requests flowing in from people who want specific data about them to be deleted.
In ablog post, U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that they working with other data protection authorities in Europe to set the guidelines for implementing the right to be forgotten. The meeting to discuss the matter is set for early next month. Until then, Google has still time to analyze the implication of this latest development.
The companies affected by the right to be forgotten issue include Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) and other data mining companies.