Google’s panel of industry insiders and experts have, at long last, concluded their debate on the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’.
The controversial law, brought in by the European Court of Justice, allows anyone to force the search engine giant to remove links to articles which may be debilitating to the reputation of the user. It was originally brought to the court’s attention by a Spanish man whose details of bankruptcy appeared on an old website, despite him having climbed back into the black. He felt that such information might impact upon his future credit rating and a breach of his privacy. The courts agreed.
But since its introduction in May 2014, Google, alongside other internet sites such as Wikipedia, have challenged what they see as a form of censorship. The internet is, after all, largely libertarian in its collective politics, with a clear emphasis on personal freedom. In response to the ruling, Google set up a series of seven public meetings across Europe, with tech-heads including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on the panel, in order to debate the relative pros and cons of the new law. Outside of the panel’s consultations with the public, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid announced that the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ was being used terrorists and criminals in order to ‘clean-up’ or conceal their past, adding further fuel to the legal fire.
Google’s final debate, which was held in Brussels, saw conflict over the right to privacy and the right to information. Several members showed hostility, not least key EU legal representative Paul Nemitz, a director in the European Commission’s Justice Unit, who claimed that Google must remember it’s not above complying with EU law. Others, however, joked of the irony that, should this imbalance between information and privacy continue, liberal Europe may very well soon start consulting search engines in autocratic China for information. The Head of Internet Law at DLA Piper, Patrick Van Eecke, stated: ‘It’s not Google who should decide about whether or not we remove a link from the search results… A search engine should not be involved in deciding whether to remove hyperlink as you would be party and judge at the same time.’
Now the meetings are over, the panel experts will write up reports, which will be used to assist with cases where no easy answer is possible. The findings of those reports, due in January, could have far-reaching implications in both the technology sector and the global internet as a whole.
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