Look Mom, even the House of Lords says the #righttobeforgotten is not right

Westminster Palace, hosting the House of Lords

Westminster Palace, meeting place of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, London, UK

The relation between the UK and the EU is like that passionate thing usually developped between a cat and a dog. Historically since the very beginning of this love and hate affair in 1973, when London realized that the European project is a ‘good’ one, the UK always seeked to receive special attention, reminding to Brussels with each and every opportunity how special they are. The examples are numerous but it is not in the scope of this piece and neither the aim of my reader presently to get into historical details.

To me London, regarding its stance with the EU, has always been the elegant snobbish lady that was very difficult to approach. Is it a cultural thing of the Brits? Is it the attitude of a powerful nation that used to rule the world in the past, with an empire reaching all corners of the world? Is it because the British museum is so proud to exhibit all the trophees of that empire, cultural monuments stolen during war time from sites all over the world? Is it the sophisticated ‘self-righteous’ accent in English or the height of Big Ben? For all I know it can be all these things together or none; I am fine with it anyway. Europe absolutely needs the existence of strong cultures whatsoever. The real challenge is to engage them in the European.

The situation here is that currently we are less than a year before the UK elections in 2015 and the Scotish referendum that is coming in a couple of months from now. Cameron’s government has been using since the beginning, for quite some time now, this ‘special sentiment’ of the British society about themselves, in order to convince the electorate that the descendant of King William IV should continue his ‘conservative’ work for another five years. To increase partisanship among his voters he has been threatening to leave the EU asap, he has fiercely fought against Juncker’s candidature for the Presidency and recently has found another opportunity to exert his criticism about how wrong things are at the capital of Belgium.

I am referring here to the discussed report issued by the House of Lords only yesterday about the “right to be forgotten” ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union. This newspaper has written quite a few Stings about this European ‘fiasko’ that endangers the freedom of Search Engines and the Internet in the Old Continent. Hence, it was an ‘easy one’, for the UK to find another spike in the relations between London and Brussels. Only that this time it is a justified one.

“We believe that the judgement of the court is unworkable for two main reasons: Firstly it does not take into account the effect the ruling will have on smaller search engines which unlike Google are unlikely to have the resources to process the thousands of removal requests they are likely to receive. Secondly, we also believe that it is wrong in principle to leave search engines themselves the task of deciding whether to delete information or not, based on vague, ambiguous and unhelpful criteria, and we heard from witnesses how uncomfortable they are with the idea of a commercial company sitting in judgment on issues like that.” This is a statement made by Usha Prashar, the chairwoman of the House of Lords Subcommittee on Home Affairs, Health and Education, the subcommittee that is responsible for the publication of the report.

Well, let’s be fair here. There is nothing wrong with the cricism exerted above on the “right ot be forgotten” as well as there is nothing new about it. The literature produced after this “unfortunate” ECJ ruling of last May, by all the sane people that know a thing or two about the way the Web operates and the core role of Search Engines , is abundant. And the ‘butterfly effect’ initially began by the case of Spanish Mario Costeja, who wanted and succeeded one single short 1998 article describing his social security debts to be erased from Google results for ever, since he has no debts now. Seriously? Why didn’t he grab the phone and make a phone call to the publisher of that article in the first place? For God’s sake. What does Google have to do with it, if the publisher’s website has good backlink strategy that brings articles in a high rank?

Not to mention here that after this ‘prude’ ruling more than 70,000 requests have been processed by the Google guys, claims of random people asking random stuff to be excluded by the search engine results. Let me underline here also what has been happening since May and was reported in my previous article as well: “Sources also claim that many of them consist of previously convicted criminals that do not want their bad deeds to be on top of Google when someone Googles their names. My goodness! Can ECJ or any sane data privacy activist weigh the implications that something like that has to the society? Do they have the right to forget or do we have the right to remember in this case?”. No additional comment is needed to be made here two months later.

Let me also touch here the point of Mrs Prashar from the House of Lords subcomittee that search engines are overloaded with the unholy burden to make a choice on what to source in the results and what not. Again, although that this point, is not new, it is always an important one. I mean, how can you give the search engine the ability and authority to process all these claims? Some of them could probably be unreasonable for all I know, like a request to delete a brunette photo of a currently blonde lady. It is not the search engine’s job to do that folks! How many people do they need to hire to read those kind of claims, should they be lawyers, should they be priests, should they seek approval by whom? Nobody said anything about that. We just let a single case to change the charter of the European Internet for no reason I believe.

Again, the British report is to the point and accurate, only that it came two months later. Apparently, the UK government is against the inclusion of the “right to be forgotten” inside the paleolithic data protection EU regulation that dates back to 1995. Who can blaim them? I know I can’t. Simon Hughes, minister at the UK Ministry of Justice, said to the subcommittee earlier this month (9 july): “The U.K. would not want what is currently in the draft, which is the right to be forgotten, to remain as part of that proposal. We want it to be removed. We think it is the wrong position. I do not think, both as an individual and a minister, we want the law to develop in the way that is implied by this judgment, which is that you close down access to information in the EU that is open in the rest of the world.” Bearing in mind how the House of Lords is comprised of, by hereditary members or apointed members by the government, the report’s publication a couple of weeks after that statement let’s just say did not happen by accident.

But the point here is that, beyond any political scope that this report has for the UK government, actually the man is right. Let me quote here an excerpt of my May piece on this hot matter : “I would like to remind here to the judges of ECJ the huge “right to be remembered” and their duty to compose the balanced magic formula that will have the right significant coefficients to decide which of the two “rights” prevail per case. Setting free an immense flow of random claims to a search engine, with no specific legal frame on how to process and react on them, is not serious enough, I think. What is next? Should we expect in Europe soon the story of Google China to be repeated? Not to forget that there the search engine giant refused to filter its results according to the policy of the Chinese government and hence they had to move to the ‘more liberal’ Hong Kong to do business. Do you see this as an extreme? Give Google 1.000.000 EU claims per day to filter anything from ugly photos to content about ex-cons and I will tell you then if they will stay in the Old Continent or they will leave us to the hands of smaller alternatives like Bing of Microsoft. And even in that case, what if Bing starts getting claims after that to filter Web content? Then courts will rule search engines and we will be protagonists of a Spielberg movie where in 2100 we will all look and act the same, since we will all have access to the same info.”

So, yes, the freedom of Internet is at stake here, not by one single ECJ ruling but by the importance it has been given and its supporters around Europe that this is the right thing to do. For all I know it is possible that the judges do not even know how the spider of a search engine works. The search engines should be allowed to do their work and scan information on the web according to its significance. Nothing more and nothing less. If there is a different proposition, like for instance a proposal by the Commission or another House of Lords ‘report’, then it has to figure it out properly and elaborate in detail on how something like that would be feasible. Then share it to with the citizens of Europe and the media. And then be ready for a hell of a criticism.

I believe most of the reasonable people in Europe do not dream of search engines that are controlled or filtered. It is a mistake of the EU to let this matter escalate in abyss like that and even give the good chance to our ‘neighbours’ to criticize. Someone from the EU needs to take the lead and close this matter now before Europe is judged as the only part of the western world where search engines get filtered.

That on its own could be a good reason for me to relocate to the other side of the atlantic. What about you?

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

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

FROM THE FIELD: Urban Mexico moves toward better livelihoods, cleaner cities

Attempt to defy international law over Golan Heights sovereignty ‘doomed to failure’ Security Council hears

A critical European young voice on Net Neutrality: the distance between Brussels and Washington

EU to gain the most from the agreement with Iran

IMF’s Lagarde: Ukraine must fight corruption

Euronest: delivering reforms is the best way forward for EU’s Eastern Partners

MEPs vote for upgrade to rail passenger rights

UN must bring more women police officers into the fold to be effective – UN peacekeeping official

It’s time to switch to a four-day working week, say these two Davos experts

The Chinese retail revolution is heading west

Europe, US and Russia haggle over Ukraine’s convulsing body; Russians and Americans press on for an all out civil war

EU budget: the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020

Gaza investigators call on Israel to review ‘rules of engagement’ as Gaza protest anniversary looms

5 lessons for social entrepreneurs on how to change the system

In an era of global uncertainty, the SDGs can be our guide

Niger population’s suffering ‘increasing with each passing month’: UN Refugee Agency

Why impoverishment and social exclusion grow in the EU; the affluent north also suffers

GSMA Mobile 360 Series –Digital Societies, in association with The European Sting

What does strategy have to do with a platform approach?

Nicaragua crisis: One year in, more than 60,000 have fled, seeking refuge

4 key ways countries can finance their SDG ambitions

7 amazing ways artificial intelligence is used in healthcare

A day in the life of a Venezuelan migrant in Boa Vista, Brazil

JADE Generations Club 2015: Knowledge vs. competences – Do not wait for the change to happen, but make it happen

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “CO2 is not the problem, it is the symptom”, the pilots who crossed the world using solar energy cry out from Davos

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

Educational disadvantage starts from age 10

EU Commission: The banks are not obliged to finance the real economy

Mark Zuckerberg will be at the European Parliament today to meet President Tajani and the political group chairpersons

If people aren’t responding to climate warnings, we need to change the message

Ten UN peacekeepers killed in a terrorist attack in northern Mali

How will the EU face the migration crisis when the Turkish threats come true?

What we can learn from Asia’s courts of the future

End of plastic water bottles at European Parliament

How do we build an ethical framework for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Have we reached peak smartphone?

Infringements: Commission adapts its calculation methodology for financial sanctions

Ahead of key UN-backed Marrakech migration conference, youth recount harrowing journeys

‘We face a global emergency’ over oceans: UN chief sounds the alarm at G7 Summit event

Europe eyes to replace US as China’s prime foreign partner

From cheeseburgers to coral reefs, the science of decision-making can change the world

Two peacekeepers killed in an attack against UN convoy in Mali

More women and girls needed in the sciences to solve world’s biggest challenges

Neelie Kroes at the European Young Innovators Forum: Unconvention 2014

EU-UK: A deal synonymous to ‘remain’, England pays the Irish price

An alternative view of Globalization 4.0, and how to get there

Memoirs from a unique trip to China: “my new old dragon” (Part II)

‘The welfare of the Libyan people’ the UN’s sole agenda for the country, says Guterres in Tripoli

ECB should offer more and cheaper liquidity if Eurozone is to avoid recession

Eurozone closer to a deflation – stagnation trap

EU attempts to make new deal with Turkey as relations deteriorate

Afghanistan extends ceasefire with Taliban; UN urges both sides to work towards lasting peace

Why global collaboration is needed to protect against a new generation of cyber threats

It’s not just the protests. Here’s how young people are helping the planet

Has Germany rebuffed ECB on the banking union?

Why we need both science and humanities for a Fourth Industrial Revolution education

Colombia: New Congress marks rebel group’s transition ‘from weapons to politics’, says UN

Can free trade deliver cheaper renewable energy? Ask Mexico

Gender Equality in Medicine: are we now so different from the Middle Ages?

More Stings?

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