I’m not feeling lucky: The “Right to Be Forgotten” ruling puts Google inside a box

Google Logo

“How should one person’s right to be forgotten be balanced with the public’s right to know?”
This is the question that Google is asking to its users with an open form which allows the general public to offer its advice. This happens in a moment that the first effects of the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) two months ago, which gives people the right to ask search engines like Google to remove results for queries that include their name, are becoming visible.

Now the Mountain View, California-based giant, struggles with handling the ECJ’s diktat and the sea of requests received every day. And through this question the world’s biggest search-engine company demonstrates that it is not only good at giving answers, but also at asking questions. Because basically it’s not possible to give an answer here. Or, well, I am not able at least.

One step back. Last May, the European Court of Justice has backed the “right to be forgotten” and told Google to delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its results when a member of the public openly requests it. The issue started when a Spanish man, Mario Costeja González, brought a privacy case to the ECJ after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home, which was still visible at the time on the website of a newspaper in Catalonia, since 1998.

An interesting case, for sure, and also a good chance to try to put ourselves in this gentleman’s shoes, in a situation that he described as a fight “for the elimination of data that adversely affects people’s honour, dignity and exposes their private lives”. Google spokesmen openly demonstrated their disappointment for the decision at first, saying that would have been required “to take time to analyse the implications.” After that, Google’s key people frequently declared that they were doing “their best” to try to accomodate the ECJ’s directions.

And here we are. After two months, Google now seems to be on the spotlight with this complicated matter. Google says it has received more than 70,000 takedown requests since May, covering 250,000 webpages, something that was depicted by Google itself as “a huge task”.This huge task recently seemed to be even bigger, when earlier this month Google removed the links to several journalistic articles from the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the BBC and other British news outlet and then made a U-turn.

After having received notice from Google that some of their content was being removed from search results on some European versions of the search engine, those British media have been informed that the links have been finally reinstated. So Google has basically acknowledged that it “incorrectly” removed links to those articles, and is now looking for new solutions to follow the ECJ’s rules. One of these new “solutions” is for instance the form that invites Google users to submit their thoughts and feedback on the ECJ’s mandate for the Right To Be Forgotten. The Mountain View giant has also informed that a board of experts was set up in order to gather contributions on the matter.

This is the result of the massive confusion contained in the European Court’s ruling, in my opinion. The ECJ has indeed found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive”, as said. Well, isn’t this incredibly vague and subjective? That’s why I truly believe it’s basically not possible to give an adequate answer to Google’s question.

On top of that keep in mind that, while deciding what to remove, search engines must also have a “regard to the public interest”, as requested by the Court of Justice. Now, it’s undeniable that the ECJ has -although indirectly- established that a search engine like Google must be regarded as a sort of “data controller” with the right to decide whether something is or is not of public interest. And please note that this is allowed in a territory, excuse me, in a market, where Google sells advertising spaces, where Google promotes its activities, where Google makes money. Many data protection lawyers said the ruling takes Google far from a formal “neutral intermediary” status. And that’s why I ask: is this what we really want? Is this ruling, as it is right now, what we really need? In my opinion there’s a lot to do in order to make this act way more equal and useful in terms of public interest.

Among those who think that there’s still a lot to do and to talk about there’s one of the experts of the Google’s council. His name is David Drummond and he also serves as senior Vice President, corporate development and chief legal officer for Google. Mr. Drummond has recently become a bit more famous after he has written a column for the Guardian, in which he openly declares his disagreement with the ruling. In the article he also adds that the ruling negatively restricts the public’s ability to exercise free expression in the continent-state.

And this is exactly where I want to start to give a conclusion to my already-long article. As I said in the beginning, I don’t really know how to reply to Google’s question. I can only say that it’s not possible at the moment, where a good balance between privacy protection and freedom of expression does not exist. All I know is that when there’s the risk of some kind of censorship under discussion, we all should be very careful. And that in a Union where the freedom of expression is one of the main pillars, a perfect balance between the people’s right to privacy and the people’s right to know must be guaranteed.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

5 creative alternatives to plastic packaging

UN chief condemns student abductions in north-west Cameroon

How the gender commuting gap could be harming women’s careers

These 11 companies are leading the way to a circular economy

Here’s how we get businesses to harmonize on climate change

A Sting Exclusive: “Regional Policy: a fully-fledged investment policy”, Commissioner Cretu reveals live from European Business Summit 2015

How the mobile industry is driving climate progress on the scale of a major economy

These countries are leading the way in green finance

Movius @ MWC14: Discussing novel Communications Applications over a “CAFÉ”

International Day of the Midwife: 5 things you should know

UN Security Council welcomes results of Mali’s presidential elections

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Residents and visitors to this Dutch neighborhood could share a pool of cars and bikes

Rising insecurity in Central Africa Republic threatens wider region, Security Council told

Medical education during COVID-19 pandemic

Horn of Africa: UN chief welcomes Djibouti agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal is bad for US business. Here’s why.

Mental distress during the pandemic: is there a way out?

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

Commission reaches agreement with collaborative economy platforms to publish key data on tourism accommodation

European Commission presents comprehensive approach for the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation

Migration crisis, a human crisis after all

EU consumers will soon be able to defend their rights collectively

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate Change needs to be demystified”, Anneli Jättenmäki Vice President of European Parliament underscores from Brussels

Commission statement on the European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism

Ηealth’s foundation is falling apart: what can we do about it?

MWC19 Wrap Up, in association with The European Sting, GSMA’s Brussels Media Partner for the 6th Consecutive Year

Does hosting a World Cup make economic sense?

Cyprus tragedy reveals Eurozone’s arbitrary functioning

5 inventions that could transform the health of our ocean

Yemen: ‘A great first step’ UN declares as aid team accesses grain silo which can feed millions

It’s time to end our ‘separate but unequal’ approach to mental health

Education remains an impossible dream for many refugees and migrants

iSting: Change Europe with your Writing

Now doctors can manipulate genetics to modify babies, is it ethical?

One more country to test the EU project: Kaczynski’s Poland

4 ways leaders are driving innovation in the public sector and revolutionising governance

10 of Albert Einstein’s best quotes

Will Boris Johnson’s victory lead to a no-deal Brexit or is there still time?

How 2020 taught businesses to place empathy before profit

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

Korea should improve the quality of employment for older workers

These companies can recycle nearly anything, from cigarette butts to fax machines

Cancer research put at risk by General Data Protection Regulation? The possible dangers of a data privacy EU mania

75 years after Auschwitz liberation, antisemitism still threatens ‘foundations of democratic societies’

This new form of currency could transform the way we see money

The Japanese have a word to help them be less wasteful – ‘mottainai’

Look no hands: self-driving vehicles’ public trust problem

Why Eurozone can afford spending for growth

Lack of involvement, or lack of opportunities?

3 reasons why responsibly-deployed technology is key to the COVID recovery

As Saudi women take the wheel, UN chief hopes end of driving ban creates more opportunities for kingdom’s women and girls

This is what the world’s CEOs think about the global outlook

EU Budget 2019: no deal before the end of the conciliation period

Sudan Partnership Conference: EU mobilises more support for Sudan’s transition

MWC 2016 LIVE: T-Mobile US reveals 5G trial plans

Parliament cuts own spending to facilitate agreement on EU budget

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) of 22/05/2018: EU relations with key trading partners

EU mobilises €21 million to support Palestine refugees via the UN Relief and Works Agency

These photos show some of the world’s smallest things massively magnified

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s