Google and the “Right to be Forgotten”

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Google received 18,304 requests from the UK to remove links under European “right to be forgotten” laws. Mark James, ESET security specialist, helps us navigate the “murky depths” of the Internet.

A little background: back in 2012 the European Commission brought forth plans for a “right to be forgotten”. This allows people to request that data about them be deleted, unless the service provider has a legitimate reason not to.

Google recently revealed that they have removed 498,737 links since May 2014. The UK constitutes 63,616 pages, resulting from 18,304 requests.

Our Online Lives

“Our lives are plastered all over the internet, from Facebook, Twitter and the ever increasing amount of apps designed to update the world on what we do and where we go”, says Mark James, ESET security specialist.

Honestly, who has never regretted a picture or status going public on Facebook? But what about inflammatory comments? Unfounded accusations? Or other more serious allegations?

“In the murky depths of the Internet there is so much outdated and sometimes very wrong information… it makes sense you should be able to remove some of it to protect your rights”, Mark adds.

Transparency Report

Google provided some detail about the requests that they received: this is where the “murky depths” get difficult to traverse.

According to the BBC report they refused a “UK public official who wanted a link to a student organisation’s petition demanding his removal”. They also refused “the request of a former clergyman… who asked for two links to articles about an investigation into sexual abuse accusations about him”.

I agree that information that is “wrong or outdated” should be removed but as Mark explains “that’s where it gets murky”. If the clergyman was found innocent then perhaps his request should be accepted: the accusations are obviously damaging to his character.

What if he was found guilty but then rehabilitated? Is it Google’s responsibility to decide? Or should it be the decision of an objective third-party? With advice from relevant officials of course.

Mark concludes that “we will never clean up the internet but making the providers of the information we search for on a daily basis accountable for some of that info they provide is a good thing”.