Court instructs Google to start deleting links

In a landmark case, an EU court has ruled that links to seriously outdated information on you should be removed if you ask Google to do so.

The BBC reports

The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy.

Google said the ruling was “disappointing”.

The search engine says it does not control data, it only offers links to information freely available on the internet.

It has previously said forcing it to remove data amounts to censorship.

The EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the court’s decision?in a post on Facebook, saying it was a “clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans”.

“The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the “digital stone age” into today’s modern computing world,” she said.

Ah, but by removing the link, it doesn’t make the information go away. ? The information still remains on the Internet for anyone else to find. ?For any other search engine to index and serve up. ??

The European Commission proposed a law giving users the “right to be forgotten” in 2012.

It would require search engines to edit some searches to make them compliant with the European directive on the protection of personal data.

In its judgement on Tuesday, the court in Luxembourg said people had the right to request information be removed if it appeared to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.

A right to be forgotten? ?Like credit data? ?Like reports on your bankruptcy? ?Like publicly accessible court documents? ?Like photos you placed in the public domain about your (now) ex-wife that are embarrassing to your current wife?

The remedy to this is not to place information about yourself on the Internet in the first place. ?The other remedy is to contact the actual web site that is serving the information and politely request the removal of such content.

But to further erode the fidelity of search results of what is publicly accessible information by forcing search engines to suppress what is and what isn’t acceptable for public consumption after a suitable amount of time has elapsed is the thin edge of an incredibly large wedge.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones says the ruling has huge consequences for anyone who publishes material online about individuals.

It appears to say that anyone who does not like an old story about them can ask for it to be wiped away, he adds.

The judgement stresses that the rights of the individual are paramount when it comes to their control over their personal data, although there is a public interest defence when it comes to people in public life.

This would be completely abused by people who are trying to hide their public mistakes by cloaking then as private and thereby insisting its removal.

“It allows individuals to complain to search engines about information they do not like with no legal oversight,” it said.

“This is akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books.”

And why just search engines?

Why not extend it to newspaper sites, blogs and official newspaper, university and government archives?

If this idea grabs hold and is allowed to gain force internationally, our ability to research into the dirty dealings of certain people and expose them to sunlight will be seriously affected.