Monday, 9 June 2014

Have You Heard Of This Contentious Ruling From The ECJ?

They call it the 'right to be forgotten.'

Last month, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that people should have "the right to be forgotten." They can request that ‘inadequate, irrelevant or excessive’ material about them be dropped from search results and this includes erasing traces of their digital past from the internet. 

While this ruling has been lauded as a win for the battle against privacy violation, it does hold grave implications for search companies like Google and the way they do business. 

When Google  made available forms allowing people to ask that certain information about them be hidden when their name is searched online, there were 12,000 requests filed
on the first day alone.

With one new request every seven seconds, Google has said it will be weighing each individual’s right to be forgotten with the public’s right to know whatever it is they want deleted before taking any action on a request. If those requests are granted, anyone searching for those people on Google will not be shown aspects of their past that they have deemed to be embarrassing or damaging - making internet searches fundamentally less useful. 

Every individual has a different idea of what privacy means which leaves the process open to abuse and/or manipulation. As is, the ruling has already been criticised after it was found that around 12 per cent of requests were related to paedophilia, 30 per cent were related to fraud and arrests or convictions about 20 per cent.

While I understand the rational for this ruling and its restriction to the European Union, there are implications for the rest of the world. I believe less progressive governments may, under the guise of upholding individual privacy, censor the Internet in their countries by adopt variations of this ruling. I also wonder what criteria Google will use to determine what gets deleted and what does not.

What do you think?

©Naomi Lucas

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