When the European court of justice ruled that Google must allow citizens the right to be forgotten, they probably thought they were helping drunk college kids, scorned lovers, and those without any fashion sense, take back their web identity.
A noble cause.
According to The Guardian newspaper, what actually happened was the apparent scum of Europe applied to have their shady misdeeds scrubbed from the public eye:
Google said last Monday that it had so far received 41,000 requests to take down sensitive material from people in Europe since the landmark ruling, including a politician with a murky past, a convicted paedophile and a man who had attempted to murder his family and wanted to remove links about his crime. Google chief executive Larry Page has said that nearly a third of the 41,000 requests received related to a fraud or scram [sic], one fifth concerned serious crime, and 12% are connected to child pornography arrests.
Admittedly, this is a difficult debate and one that is hard to look at objectively. I am sure that there are some people that don’t deserve to have their personal or professional lives ruined because of egregious Google results. On the other hand, we have criminals trying to cover their tracks. You could argue that the courts should be the ones to decide if something should be removed from Google’s search results, but that’s a lengthy process–and one out of reach for most people on modest incomes. What we’ve ended up with is not much better.
Google is now the sole arbitrator of whether a request is legitimate or not. Even if you assumed that Google can get this highly subjective decision right, how long will it take to actually take any action? As any good search marketer will tell you, just getting Google to take action on a reconsideration request can test the patience of a saint. It already has over 40,000 take down requests, and that list is not going to get any shorter.
As if the task is not daunting enough, the new law compounds matters with its vagueness–Google must remove anything “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.” I’d suggest that attempted murder or child pornography are highly relevant–no matter how long ago they took place.
Proof that this is going to be difficult to police? Some of you are already thinking about your comment in support of this law, while others are strongly against it. Many of you will agree with me, while others will suggest that if a crime has been paid for, it should not continue to haunt someone’s online presence.
See how murky all of this is?