SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Google is taking the first step in complying with a European court ruling that gives people the right to be forgotten online.
This started with a Spanish individual who complained because he was very upset that news about his bankruptcy from 15-years ago was still searchable on the Internet, with some high visibility if you searched it through Google.
Essentially the European Union Court of Justice (sort of an equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court) ruled that Google had to take down the listing to that page. The newspaper’s website didn’t have to take the actual page down, but Google would have to make it less searchable.
This is precedent setting in that people can now petition to be forgotten on the web in a sense. Anyone who lives in one of 32 European countries (the U.S. is not one of them) can now log on to a web page that Google is providing and tell them why they think a link should be taken down from the search engine. If it qualifies by Google’s standards, the company will supposedly remove it.
We all have things in our own history that we’re not particularly proud of, but that’s just it. It is history. Really this is just a false sense of security because the items in question are still there and there will be other ways to find them. Just because Google is complying doesn’t mean search engines across the board are going to do the same.
Google has said politicians won’t be able to erase their past, but still, as a journalist this kind of wrangles me. I don’t want Google making editorial decisions, they’re a search engine. They shouldn’t be deciding on the value of content they should simply provide it if it’s out there. (There are exceptions with child pornography and other illegal content).
This whole notion is kind of like shredding a newspaper with bad press in it and pretending the story doesn’t exist. I don’t think this is the right solution.