Google Is Fighting Against the Right to Be Forgotten
September 5, 2018
When somebody is featured in an internet story, it usually runs around for a week or so before fizzling out, unless it goes viral and then it may take longer. However, even after the story fizzles and nobody’s talking about it, “that guy who won the lottery”, the story can still be found on the internet. This has become a problem for some people who may have shared information or been featured in an article when young, but now want to move on and start families, apply for a job, or buy a house.
When you Google somebody, any information about them across the internet should appear. This includes all those past stories about debt and bankruptcy, failed romance, or other personal stories. When somebody decides that information is no longer relevant or should no longer be shared with the public, they may choose to use, “the right to be forgotten” to have the data removed.
Currently, Google is battling it out with Europe to determine how far the right to be forgotten should go and whether it’s a realistic law to put in place. The current legal battle won’t just include the online information in the city or country where the individual lives, but any information on any international sites all around the world.
What Is the Right to Be Forgotten?
Much like the name suggests, the right to be forgotten, is a request for the removal of old, fake, or no longer relevant data about a person. The law worked for one Spanish citizen back in 2014 when the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Google must take down all of the active links about the man and his bankruptcy.
Google is pushing back on this battle, suggesting that it’s impossible for the site to find all of the sites where the offensive news is being displayed, and even harder to force a site to change or close down. Google can, of course, threaten to delist a site, and remove them from query results. However, it has no other say over the sites which publish this information and whether they can keep it.
How Does Google Keep Up?
Google might not have to force other sites to remove offensive data or images, but removing the sites from their ranked database is just as much work. During past European transgressions, the search engine has been ruled against taking down links and addresses not only on .fr or .uk, but also .com, .org, and any other country or site code that can be determined.
One of the ways Google has tried to counteract their obligation in cases of this kind is by implementing new privacy agreements. Users who agree to use Google despite its flaws, such as information being displayed that users would rather not see, lose their rights to sue.
Personal Problems with The Law Being Passed
Some information can’t ever be wiped from Google’s databases, such as crimes like rape or murder. This search information is available to the public to protect them from future repeat transgressions. However, what happens when a criminal is undocumented due to age, but somehow wind up linked to news coverage anyway?
This is exactly what’s happening to one Canadian citizen who types their name into Google only to find information on a court case which involved them while they were underage. The news articles which were linked to the Google keyword name didn’t include the perpetrators name anywhere in them, as the name was under a media ban. Somehow, Google still managed to link the two together, which is being considered a giant violation of rights.
To counteract the issue, a huge multi-million-dollar class-action suit is in progress between Ontario families and the search engine. It goes to show how important confidentiality and right to privacy can be. These linked online resources, found through Google, have allegedly ruined the life of the young person.
This is exactly the type of information the EU has been touching on throughout their argument. Suggesting that the information Google makes public has a long-lasting effect on those included in the documents. It might not be Google who posts the articles, but they allow the information to be distributed again and again, going so far as to rank them in the order of which they should be viewed by the user public.
The Big Picture
Google losing this battle would mean big changes for search engines and the internet in general. It could mean the loss of information which was previously public and historical. For example, Google believes that if Europe decides that they should be able to build rules around what American and Canadian citizens can see, that other countries will follow suit, and America may even get on board. They stress that this could be the end of finding information on international occurrences, like Germany in the World Wars or other accurate information which could paint a person, place or thing in a negative light.
Google has made it clear that they hope voters will vote against the law coming into effect, not just for convenience sake, but because it’s the right thing to do for global information sharing. Whether Google’s heart is in the right place is yet to be seen, but their argument has certainly been heard by users, as so many are rallying around the company to either support or fight against their latest legal trouble.