The slippery slope of the EU ‘Right to be Forgotten’ ruling

Slippery Slope
Slippery Slope

WASHINGTON, July 27,2 014 – Google, which has gained international trust as the place to go for search, has been put into a slippery slope position by a recent “right to be forgotten” European Ruling that says:

Individuals have the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. This applied where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive for the purposes of the data processing….

At the same time, the EU Court explicitly clarified that the right to be forgotten is not absolute but will always need to be balanced against other fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression and of the media.

Since the May implementation of the ruling, Google EU has started to approve “right to be forgotten” requests. At this time, those requests are focused primarily in the UK. Requests are generally from individuals that are seeking to have “information” they deem as inaccurate or inconvenient, removed from the Internet.

The ruling currently deals only with search in the EU, not the US, or elsewhere.

Reports are that as of July 18 most requests came from France (17,500), Germany (16,500) and the U.K. (12,000). Some 8,000 requests came from Spain, 7,500 from Italy, and 5,500 from the Netherlands, according to published sources.

Recruiters for colleges and employers, as well as savvy parents, warn young people about what they post online, even to personal social media accounts, because every word and/or image becomes a part of your living, growing on-line resume.

And even if it is legal in the state where you live, do you want a post-college employer deciding your career path to find that picture of you doing a beer bong in the Annex Hall?

As a broad example, it would be like the individual Barack Obama deciding he wanted to remove all links to information about the birther scandal from the Internet. The scandal has been debunked; few people think it is true. Fewer actually care.

But if citizen Barack Obama wanted to apply for a job post presidency, all that chatter about him allegedly lying about his country of birth, might not look good. So he requests that all those links be removed, to eliminate the bad and the ugly from the Internet about him and his past job.

Right now it is about personal information and personal rights. Only all slopes are slippery, and this slope has a real tilt to it.

Bob Satchwell, executive director for the U.K.’s society of Editors has expressed concern that the ruling risks to “broader censorship on the web.”

“If you let this go without protest, then it will creep,” said Satchwell, “This passion for privacy will creep into law across Europe and erode the freedom of speech.”

The Internet is filled with “information” that is dubious and can be harmful. Just today following a bread crumb trail seeking information, the internet responded with a story that claimed Obama’s Columbia ID showed him as a foreign student (false) and that both POTUS and FLOTUS had both “voluntarily” given up their law licenses, alleging there was a reason for doing so which is true / false.

Yes they have let their law licenses lapse, but is it because they will probably never practice law in the private sector again, not due to some alleged scandal.

That story also pointed out some information that was factual.

So as a user, whose responsibility is it to censor that search result? The EU? Search engines? Or the user?

Yes, the user – from reader to prospective employer – who believes “if it is on the Internet it must be true” or the researcher that, as has been the modus operandi, confirms the accuracy of what they read?

It did not take much to reveal the truth behind the Columbia ID or the law license assertion. Less than a moment. But in that search for accuracy, I found a few different web sites, two personal blog sites and a “news site” blog that were all repeating the same inaccurate information.

But a stopped clock is right twice a day. And even if they writers got the information wrong, isn’t it my personal responsibility as a reader (not to mention writer) to verify that information?

Next Page: The EU ruling effects more than individuals and Google

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  • William L. Finucan

    So does that mean all history books have to be deleted and burned every year so there is no recorded events? And can we change who discovered America?