Posted by Sequel on May 20, 2014
Topic: blogs, Privacy
Tags: EU Privacy, Right to be Forgotten
EU High Court Ruling on Google Search Results

The European Union’s high court has ruled that Google must respond to requests by individuals and companies to take down from search results any information that the petitioner views as outdated, inaccurate or irrelevant.

In its zeal to create a “right to be forgotten,” the Court has told Google that it is responsible for hiding it from view. I believe this ruling incorrectly places the burden on the search engine to determine when an individual’s request to remove search results should be honored.

To be clear, this decision does not require that search engines remove the underlying data from the Web.  Instead, search engines must make the underlying data harder to locate. Given that there are over 250 search engines on the Web today, implementing this decision will face technical challenges. Where the material in question is posted to a social network, it would seem more appropriate for the individual or business to take the initiative to remove (or have removed) the erroneous or offensive information.

From a strictly practical logistical perspective, this ruling also faces challenges.  Search engines will need to direct scarce resources to the task of considering these requests.  The fact that the court provided little guidance on which to base these decisions magnifies this problem.  It is also worth considering that the court has given Google or a similar search engines the power to make these decisions – are search engines the parties best equipped to be the arbiter of these requests?

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