Forgetting The Right To Be Forgotten

Editorial / Tech
forgotten google featured

In the latest move in the saga that is the right to be forgotten law, the UK government has asked for it to be removed from the new European Union data protection laws. Opposing having another law dictated by the European Union, and bringing more controversy and debate into the almost farcical ‘Law’.

Under the new law individuals have the right to request Google search results be removed that are “inadequate or no longer relevant”. This has lead to around 70,000 people making the request to Google in just two months. They received around 30,000 request in the first two weeks to remove search results that infringe an individual’s privacy.

The government is currently negotiating with our 27 partners to get a new law, which is the new directive and we, the UK, would not want what is currently in the draft, which is the Right to be forgotten, to remain. We want it to be removed, we think it is the wrong position – Justice Minister, Simon Hughes

Since being put into place, both technology commentators and media outlets alike have been up in arms. Both the BBC and The Guardian have voiced concerns and argued that content which is outdated still has relevance and this ruling is one step towards media censorship. Being now joined by the UK  Minister for Justice Simon Hughes, who agrees that being deleted from search engines including Google at the request of individuals, should not be administered by the EU.

I don’t think as an individual and as a minister that we want the law to develop in the way that is implied by this judgment that you close down access to information in the EU, which is open in the rest of the world – Justice Minister, Simon Hughes

There are several issues with the right to be forgotten. Not to mention that there are other search engines that exist. Information will still be shown on Yahoo and Bing search. Without taking into account searches on individual sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google plus. There are so many ways that this action just will not work.

forgotten google notice

We Know What’s Been Removed

As soon as a Google search is made, it is obvious results have been removed. Google search shows a warning at the bottom of the page stating some results ‘may’ be missing. Whats more if the listing is from a news publication they are made aware of this. Google sends a letter stating “We regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google search.”

These examples show what a nonsense the right to be forgotten is. It is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like. There is no suggestion any of these articles are inaccurate – Martin Clarke, MailOnline

The MailOnline will now publish a list of all articles that are deleted from Google’s search results. One high profile case is that of former banker Mr. O’Neal from the BBC blog. An article written back in 2007 by Robert Preston was highly critical of the then Merrill Lynch banker. Resigning after bad investments and making huge losses. This blog post is now removed from Google search results in Europe. But it’s unsure of who by.

Is the data in it ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant’? Hmmm. Most people would argue that it is highly relevant for the track record, good or bad, of a business leader to remain on the public record. Especially someone widely seen as having played an important role in the worst financial crisis in living memory  – Robert Preston

Specific Google Search

Google is only at liberty to filter specific Google search results. Meaning that there is a very easy route around this. Less specific searches. Making a less specific request to Google search would list result that may have been removed in a more specific request. Techaeris have to be very careful what we show in Google search results for so we can only present a general example.

forgotten google search

Google search for a specific celebrity, and search results could very well be filtered. Having such things as drug problems, arrests or promiscuity deleted from Google search. However search for celebrities with drug problems, would bring up all related results. Including those the celebrity requested to be deleted. This is because the online information doesn’t disappear, just the way it is displayed in search.

Deleted In Europe Only

The thing to remember is this ruling only happened in Europe. So although anyone can request information to be removed, it will only be left out of European based Google search. So consider everything inside Europe to be not the full story when you Google search. As with everything there are always way around the internet.

Searching through a disguised proxy will bring up an unfiltered search result. But simply switching to use Google search outside of Europe will do this. Switch to using will lose some local searching, but will give true results.

So it would seem that all the effort and costs that individuals such as Mr O’Neil have gone to fight for this right to be forgotten has been pointless. Google search has done as asked despite its protests. Filter Google search results that have a valid reason to be forgotten. Yet still the information is readily available on the internet. The only way for it truly disappear is to remove it from the source.

Google Is Not The Internet

The internet can both empower and harm an individual in equal amounts. In a generation that the internet is in such a prevalent place there is a need to be aware of its power. The printing press had been invented 150 years before its true worth and usefulness was realised. It will take much longer for the internet. Society is still working out where and how the internet fits in with our lives, leading to wildly differing opinions of its purpose and the level of control we have over it.

Although many users are completely tied into the Google ecosystem, governments and courts seem to think Google is the internet. Perhaps Google has become too all-encompassing of the internet for its own good. Everything that involves internet use seems to be levied against Google specifically even though it is not the gatekeeper to the World Wide Web.

forgotten google delete

Learn To Accept

The old expression in the UK is that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper. Meaning that news soon fades into nothing and people soon forget. Allowing lives to move forward. In the world of the internet this couldn’t be further from the truth. A quick Google search will reveal anything published about anyone. Especially for those that have less general names, a search may only yield negative information.

The issues surrounding Google search are extremely difficult. Things that are no longer relevant, such as the test case involving a bankruptcy 10 years ago, should be allowed to fade into the forgotten. But should embarrassing or negative results be allowed to be deleted from the internet. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t make them less true.

I am not sure this issue will ever be resolved by filtering online. Maybe society needs to become more understanding about negative press. There are undoubtedly things that people need to know about their fellow man. But learn to take into account the fact that people make mistakes, it doesn’t make them a worse human being for it. In fact it may very well have improved them.

To Top