Right to be Forgotten

The backlash of the right to be forgotten

Americans and Europeans think very differently about privacy and the Internet. This was apparent from the reactions to the recent European Court ruling on Google, following a removal request from a Spanish lawyer. He achieved the opposite of being forgotten and the statement furthermore stimulates the fragmentation of the internet. The lawyer, Mario Cotija González, had a major clash with the Spanish tax authorities. The IRS wanted to force sell his house to collect his debt. That was news in 1998, and then the local papers covered this tax clash. The issue was later resolved. However, if you now enter the name of this person in Google, you will find references to this old news at the top of the list of hits.

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Right to be forgotten

The European Court makes an interesting decision, summarized in an exceptionally clear and readable press release . Privacy, in this case also referred to as the ‘right to be forgotten’, takes precedence over freedom of expression. Jeff Jarvis wrote on Twitter: “EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’ is a blow against free speech”. Google is disappointed because it has tipped the balance in the wrong direction, Eric Schmidt said. European Justice Commissioner Viviane Redding welcomed the ruling as a protection of privacy. She wrote on Facebook.

The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world”. The Commission believes that individuals have control over their personal information; they are the owners of that information. This means that they have the right to prohibit a data controller from further disseminating and linking to certain information. You could therefore speak of a kind of pseudo anonymity, or a ‘right to be forgotten ‘.

Irrelevant information

The Court weighs up freedom of expression and privacy and argues that in this case the information about the person does not serve any reasonable purpose. The information is no longer relevant and reference to the information can be omitted. The Court does not therefore confer a broad right to forget, but a limited right. Only in the case of information that is irrelevant. That is, when “these data are insufficient, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive with regard to the purpose for which they were processed and the elapsed time”. A second limitation in the judgment of the Court concerns the prevention of abuse. 

Public personalities (politicians who want to hide something from their past) cannot simply invoke this, as can private persons with information that is indeed of social importance. This judgment is an elaboration of the European data protection directive (95/46/EC) from 1995, in which a distinction is made between media with ‘journalistic purposes’ and data managers. Unlike the media, data managers such as Google have a different concern for privacy. And that’s why Google needs to remove the link, but the newspapers don’t need to remove the information from their online archive. But still, does that also apply if I put the links on my blog? Or if I send the link via Twitter? Back to Luxembourg, I think.

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Knowing versus forgetting

In the US, such a trade-off would have little chance because of the strong position of the ‘First Amendment’. Google cannot hide behind its American origins. The Court is of the opinion that despite the fact that the information on Google servers is not located in Europe, Google does bear a responsibility here, because it does business with Europe.

In contrast to the priority of the US right to know, the EU is opposing the right to forget. Do we alway have to know everything exactly, or can a misstep be carry over to you for the rest of your life? Perhaps this will make social life a little easier and happy. if we don’t know everything that’s happening, commented Viktor Mayer-Schamberger , professor of internet governance and regulation at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute.

Google’s Editorial Role

The Court’s ruling is a change for Google’s position. In principle, Google is a neutral catalogue, the card index of the internet library, which only refer to the location of the information. As a result of the ruling, Google will now also have an editorial role, namely determining when a complaint is made or whether certain information is relevant, complete and appropriate. 

Incidentally, there was already a delete department at Google, in connection with infringement of copyright by references. That department can now be expanded, as a flood of requests under this judgment is not unlikely. The Court’s ruling spells out exactly how and when to balance privacy and freedom of expression. From a practical point of view, journalism is fine. Basically it is something different.

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Fragmentation of the internet

Base on Google’s catalog role, I find it a bit inconvenient if the librarian close part of the catalog for visitors because it would no longer be relevant. I’d rather figure that out myself. The removal of links, however limited, is a major obstacle to my idea of ​​journalistic research. The next question is whether this is a good basis for regulating the internet.  Google will first check where a search query comes from. From Europe, the link will not be shown, but in the US that is no problem. Journalist are not keen on this kind of fragmentation and feudalization of the internet,