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The Right to Be Forgotten – When Do Privacy Rights Begin and End on Google?

Updated on September 11, 2018
RJ Schwartz profile image

I try to present technology issues in a way that people can easily understand them

Many people have found themselves in compromising positions, some even losing their current status or employment, due to something they posted, made comments on, or liked on one of the many social media sites across the internet. Unlike word of mouth, a digital footprint can remain in existence forever; or at least that what it seems like. Skeptics can be easily shown digital trails which demonstrate poor choices in past comments, repeated likes on content of questionable nature, and a host of other transgressions from the past. Prominent CEO’s, politicians, and Hollywood icons have been exposed and removed from their positions due to something from their past resurfacing. Up until just recently, most people have come to the understanding that things on-line are permanent; or are they?

Rulings Support the Right of Individuals

In a story which quietly slipped through the airwaves, internet behemoth Google, lost a landmark High Court case in Europe to an individual who wanted information about a previous conviction removed from the public on-line record. In April, a businessman who had been convicted of a low-level crime and spent six months behind bars more than a decade ago, petitioned the court to have any link to his previous crime “delisted.” He was quoted as saying, “The crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google Search to justify its continued availability, so that an appropriate delisting order should be made.” This case along with one other with similar circumstances appears to be a direct challenge to the assumption that the internet never forgets. It’s also likely that more will follow based upon this ruling.

The two cases were both brought forward utilizing the data protection law for misuse of private information. Over 600,000 requests to have information removed from the internet have been made to Google since this ruling. The most affected website for requests is Facebook. The "Right to be Forgotten" could have far reaching consequences for all search-engine providers across Europe should this practice become more prevalent. Sites would be banned from sharing the personal information of users who have petitioned to have it expunged. Social media sites are likely to be the most affected and the means to enforce the rule could be quite costly.

The Bigger Picture and the Future of Search Engines in Europe

Today, European Union judges are starting hearings that will include stakeholders from multiple entities and companies, as well as attorneys from several nations representing their data protection groups. The proceedings will have worldwide ramifications, which will force search engines to delist requested information in Europe and subject them to fines for failure to comply. Google is fighting against any attempt to limit on-line content by a third party. It’s strange that Google says one nation should not be permitted to impose their rules on any other nation or the rest of the world when they themselves already have demonstrated that they will happily limit content to nations as part of an agreement to be able to do business in them. They are also happy to create algorithms that filter content according to their secret ideals. They just don’t want anyone else to have the same power as they have.

Conclusion

It’s very likely that this case will take a long time to decide, especially with so many potential stakeholders that could testify. Yet, with precedent already set, the giant internet companies will have a difficult time in demonstrating to the High Court reasons why they see the need to keep old or outdated information available on-line. As of now, their only defense has been that they claim the public, “has a right to know any and all public information.” At least whatever information they deem important.

© 2018 Ralph Schwartz

Comments

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  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    14 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Being me, suits me just fine...

  • tsadjatko profile image

    14 months ago from now on

    Well Ralph, I guess that nails it. You look like You!

    I can’t argue with Paula! She told me not to and guess what... I agree with her, totally.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 

    14 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    No doubt, given enough time, we could have taken fairly educated guesses on naming the "10 internet-censored countries." What else is new with these oppressive, authoritarian dictator-ruled nations that find it rational to murder women for having been raped? Bunch of backward, uneducated, unintelligent, morally-bankrupt, blood-thirsty savages with zero respect for life.

    I have not and will not join social media sites, simply because they don't appeal to me nor do I have the time to indulge. I use twitter since joining HubPages, strictly for sharing my articles...nothing more. I have an actual aversion to sites like Facebook where people splatter everything publicly & permanently, with not a single thought of the ramifications this may cause. IMHO, these sites are used to extreme by individuals who simply have no life, people who erroneously believe the world wants to know all about them, and those who have no concern nor concept & respect for PRIVACY.

    I steer clear and very glad I do.

    Johnny Galecki? Not even close, Ralph. I never saw even a single episode of "The Office" so I can't comment on your possible likeness to that guy. I will tell you who you look just like. A writer I know from HubPages by the name of Ralph Schwartz. :) Peace, Paula

  • tsadjatko profile image

    14 months ago from now on

    Gee Ralph, that comment is more important to mizbejabbers than answering a question I asked her days ago about a claim she made in forum, which, since she couldn’t answer, I guess was just another one of her fabrications. Imagine that!

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    14 months ago from Beautiful South

    Gee Ralph, I don't think you look like Johnny Galecki. I think you look like Ralph Schwartz. Imagine that!

  • tsadjatko profile image

    14 months ago from now on

    So which is it? Dwight or Leonard?

    https://usercontent2.hubstatic.com/14209071_f496.j...

    I say Galecki! :-)

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    14 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Yes, I've been told that. Even funnier is just yesterday someone told me I looked like Dwight in a show called the Office - since I don't have a TV, I had to look it up to understand the humor....

  • tsadjatko profile image

    14 months ago from now on

    Ralph, anyone ever tell you you look like Johnny Galecki from the Big Bang Theory? Just give him a beard. But you are smarter than his character is supposed to be.

    https://goo.gl/images/HfwXVA

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    14 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    I just caught wind of this story by accident, but dug into it a little bit and found the few details I was able to share. I'm not surprised that the internet giants would want to keep this story buried as it really shows a vulnerability that they wern't expecting.

    I think it's funny that the same companies who claim everyone has the right to know everything also claim that they have the moral high ground to decide which get more attention and which ones get buried. What do they think they are, Congress? ha ha ha

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    14 months ago from The Caribbean

    It is certainly malicious to reveal negative information just because it can be done. Thanks for introducing this "Right to be Forgotten" issue. Something to watch.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    14 months ago from Beautiful South

    Very interesting article. I'd not heard of this European case. There is a big problem in the U.S. today, and that is people who are accused of sex crimes are herded into databases BEFORE guilt is established. If the person is found not guilty, he or she can petition the court to have the name deleted from government websites.

    However, there are a number of private websites that search the court records and newspaper articles daily, probably by using bots, and list the name of anyone who is accused. Even if it is a hoax and the person is not charged -- and the newspaper retracts the story, these websites charge a fee to the poor person to have his/her name removed from their lists. This fee ranges from $100 up, and $500 is common.

    There are many complaints online from persons who have paid the fee, yet the website refuses to remove the name. No agency seems to regulate this type of deceptive practices. I researched this one time for a story on these dishonest websites but never followed through because HP said it didn't accept stories involving sex because they weren't family oriented.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    14 months ago from Queensland Australia

    I also found this very interesting. If you have a criminal conviction it is supposed to be wiped from records after a certain number of years isn't it? This could probably be enforced on the Internet to delete any reference. Sites or apps like Snapchat already delete posts, photos etc after a short time. Maybe that will become a more common practice too.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    14 months ago from now on

    Very interesting Ralph. I can’t even guess what will happen in reference to the subject of your hub page but I will say this. Life, living, was so much simpler before the advent of the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but could I do without it? There was a time when we did and life was simpler. Leave it to Al Gore to destroy the simple life :-J

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