I have just returned from a breakneck week in Europe (UK and France) and it’s always interesting to see the world through those that perspective. There are so many profound differences…it goes well beyond the entire continent is about to go World Cup crazy while we politely ignore the entire event. In several discussions with both industry folk and ‘civilians’ there was a real resentment around the whole ‘right to be forgotten’ issue. Since the European ruling of a few weeks back Google has received over 40,000 requests to have information about various folk deleted from the index because that information is either “outdated or inaccurate.” The mere fact that a good number of these requests are reportedly from drug dealers, corrupt politicians and convicted child molesters did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of several folk I talked to about this topic. There is a feeling that Google has appointed itself judge, jury and executioner of our information age and it appears to be fairly widely resented. The review process is also shaping up to be controversial. The legal ruling was so broadly drawn and vague this was bound to happen. The first draft appears to be a star chamber of Google folk and third party experts who will sit in judgement on these issues…this arrangement already has privacy advocates up in arms. The scale the task is also daunting…at only 15 minutes per review it would take more than six years for a single panel to review the initial case load. Who pays for the process hasn’t been mentioned anywhere.
Google has made no secret of their objection to this process so it’s unlikely that they will be turning cartwheels to make if either fast or painless. However in the final analysis it may not actually improve matters for those seeking to be forgotten. In cases where Google has been required to remove copyright infringed content under the digital Millenium Copyright Act they have always posted a clear note to that effect, often with pointers to sites where that ‘censorship’ process is discussed in more detail. Given that Google.com in the US is unaffected by this ruling where they are required to remove content about someone on one of their European properties it’s highly likely that they will simply leave a great big red flag in the results set to the effect that “We are sorry, but had to remove juicy information from these results under the “right to be forgotten” rulling.. but if you want to look at what we had to remove click here to see the uncensored results at Google.com” I can hardly imagine a more reliable way of sending the searcher to exactly the information which some body would like to be forgotten.