Is The Right To Be Forgotten Dangerous?

Chris CrumBusiness

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Google has released its latest Transparency Report, which as of earlier this year, now looks at URL removal requests from the highly-publicized Right to be Forgotten ruling in Europe. The inventor of the World Wide Web recently spoke out against the ruling, calling it dangerous. Meanwhile, the requests continue to roll in, and other parts of the world may start being affected.

Do you agree that the Right to be Forgotten is a dangerous thing, or do you think it's the right way for the Internet to work? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Back in October, when Google first revealed its Right to be Forgotten removal request data in the Transparency report, it said it had evaluated 497,695 URLs for removal and received a total of 144,954 requests.

The latest data has the numbers at 684,419 URLs evaluated and a total of 189,238 requests.

On the Transparency Report site, Google also gives examples of requests it encounters. One involves a woman that requested Google remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name. The page has been removed for search results for her name.

In another example, a financial professional in Switzerland asked Google to remove over 10 links to pages reporting on his arrest and conviction for financial crimes. Google did not remove pages from search results in those cases.

A rape victim in Germany asked Google to remove a link to a newspaper article about the crime, which Google did in search results for the person’s name.

According to the company, the sites that are most impacted by the URL removals are Facebook, ProfileEngine, YouTube, Badoo, Google Groups, Yasni.de, Wherevent.com, 192.com, yasni.fr, and yatedo.fr.

One of the latest to speak out against the situation was none other than Tim Berners-Lee, the guy responsible for the World Wide Web. Via CNET:

“This right to be forgotten — at the moment, it seems to be dangerous,” Berners-Lee said Wednesday, speaking here at the LeWeb conference. “The right to access history is important.”

In a wide-ranging discussion at the conference, Berners-Lee said it’s appropriate that false information should be deleted. Information that’s true, though, is important for reasons of free speech and history, he said. A better approach to the challenge would be rules that protect people from inappropriate use of older information. An employer could be prohibited from taking into account a person’s juvenile crimes or minor crimes more than 10 years old, for example.

The EU recently put forth some guidelines for the Right to be Forgotten, for search engines to work with, though they don’t go very far in terms of quelling the biggest concerns many have with the ruling, such as Berners-Lee’s.

The Right to be Forgotten appears to be creeping out of Europe, and into other parts of the world. Consider this from earlier this month from Japan Times:

Yes. In a possible first in Japan, the Tokyo District Court in October issued an injunction ordering Google to remove the titles and snippets to websites revealing the name of a man who claimed his privacy rights were violated due to articles hinting at past criminal activity.

Tomohiro Kanda, who represented the man, said the judges clearly had the European court’s ruling in mind when they ordered Google to take down the site titles and snippets. Google has since deleted search results deemed by the court as infringing on the man’s privacy, Kanda said.

But generally speaking, Japanese judges have yet to reach a consensus on how to balance the right to privacy and the freedom of expression and of information.

Regulators in Europe have also been calling to have URLs removed from Google's search engines worldwide rather than just from the European versions of Google.

Are you concerned with the Right to be Forgotten? Let us know in the comments.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.