It looks like Google is outplaying the moronic European legislatures who put no thought into this law whatsoever. They couldn't even be bothered to define key terms such as "public figure" or "reasonable length of time".The Washington Post wrote:The disastrous results of the â€˜right to be forgottenâ€™ ruling
TWO MONTHS after a European Court of Justice ruling, the â€œright to be forgottenâ€ is not looking too wise.
Complying with the courtâ€™s order, Google, which has received more than 70,000 â€œright to be forgottenâ€ requests since May, this month began removing links to Web pages with â€œinadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevantâ€ personal information from its European sites. But backlash ensued when it erased the links of several news articles from the Guardian, BBC and other British media outlets. A Guardian writer, echoing concerns of many, called it a â€œhuge, if indirect, challenge to press freedom.â€ Others alleged that the removals are part of Googleâ€™s strategy to stir resistance against the ruling.
Publicity stunt or not, these deletions could have been predicted the moment the court handed down its vague, clumsy decision.
Take the three delinked Guardian articles on Dougie McDonald, a former Scottish soccer referee who lied about his reasons for granting a penalty kick. Google judged that Mr. McDonald â€” now retired â€” was no longer a public figure, so his privacy right trumped the publicâ€™s right to know. It deleted the articles from search results of Mr. McDonaldâ€™s name.
Most would disagree. Accounts of a recent soccer scandal should remain part of an easily accessible public record. Another case, in which Google removed a BBC article that explored a Merrill Lynch bankerâ€™s role in the financial crisis, raised another set of questions. There, a commenter on the article â€” not the banker â€” requested the deletion.
The court ruling offers no guidance in navigating these dilemmas. As we wrote two months ago, the opinion doesnâ€™t define a â€œpublic figureâ€ or the appropriate amount of time that would make information â€œno longer relevant.â€ Nor does it list the practical criterion of who constitutes a direct or indirect â€œdata subject.â€
Google has hired a team of paralegals to help sort through requests. But with 250,000 links contested so far, handling each request with care is virtually impossible. Google has no incentive to protect the free flow of information beyond its professed pledge to free expression. On the other hand, it has plenty of interest in approving deletions and avoiding complicated challenges by data protection agencies and courts.
The government and courts, not a company, should perform these balancing tests, if they must be done at all. Under the existing structure, we can expect more misjudgments â€” most of which, unlike the ones cited above, will go unnoticed.
There are other ways to protect privacy. Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain has suggested allowing individuals more control over how search results of their names are displayed on the first page while maintaining separate, â€œunvarnishedâ€ result pages like the ones that now exist. Google News once allowed those quoted or mentioned in articles to write a comment next to them.
The E.U. Council is considering a regulation, passed by the European Parliament in March, formalizing what is now called a â€œright to erasure.â€ The law, among other things, would place the burden of proof on companies to prove that data cannot be deleted. This would exacerbate an already deleterious situation.
Britainâ€™s justice minister, Simon Hughes, warned last week that this right is developing in a way that would â€œclose down access to information in the E.U. which is open in the rest of the world.â€ The council should heed his words and learn from recent incidents. The integrity of Europeâ€™s free flow of information is on the line.
Twatflannels as KiR would say.