Thursday, April 21, 2011

Does Anyone Have the Right to be Forgotten?

Spain is dealing with an issue that I haven't really considered:
In a case that Google Inc. and privacy experts call a first of its kind, Spain's Data Protection Agency has ordered the search engine giant to remove links to material on about 90 people. The information was published years or even decades ago but is available to anyone via simple searches.
Scores of Spaniards lay claim to a "Right to be Forgotten" because public information once hard to get is now so easy to find on the Internet. Google has decided to challenge the orders and has appealed five cases so far this year to the National Court.
For obvious reasons, the veracity of searched material is something that Google really wants to maintain. They want you to find what you're looking for and return for more of what they offer. The better the results, the more relevant the results, the stronger Google appears to the people who use their service. That's the business model that has expanded into a comprehensive web experience.

For Google to have to make the results their search algorithms brings back less reliable is the same as forcing Google to make itself a weaker company with a weaker product. This would force Google to weaken itself. Would the same standards apply to ANY and ALL search engine providers? I would hope so. Google isn't the only game in town, of course.

Yes, there are privacy concerns and no one should have fraudulent, defaming material following them around, especially if they have proof that this material is all that and damaging as well, but actual facts about someone are hard to dispute. Scrubbing Google would help alleviate certain kinds of bullying, for example. I think there is a societal and very legal need for Google to be able to scrub images or text items that are relevant to a specific case of bullying.

This really bothers me:
Many details about the Spaniards taking on Google via the government are shrouded in secrecy to protect the privacy of the plaintiffs. But the case of plastic surgeon Hugo Guidotti vividly illustrates the debate.
In Google searches, the first link that pops up is his clinic, complete with pictures of a bare-breasted women and a muscular man as evidence of what plastic surgery can do for clients. But the second link takes readers to a 1991 story in Spain's leading El Pais newspaper about a woman who sued him for the equivalent of euro5 million for a breast job that she said went bad.
The fact that the surgeon was sued is relevant to his customers, and it's not Google's fault that he was sued. Google is merely linking one item to another item and it is up to the user of Google's service to determine if this is relevant.

No one should be allowed to scrub the Internet of factual things that relate to the services they provide. Politicians would be ordering up Google scrubs every fifteen minutes. Corrupt officials would be scrubbing Google on a regular basis. No one should have the right to go around, butchering people, and then plead to have all of that forgotten. Everyone should have the right to use Google to prevent themselves from using a plastic surgeon who is incompetent. And Spain should probably defend that right while taking the common-sense step of ensuring that this plastic surgeon is on the up and up.

The results of your professional endeavors should be available to the public. I can see the argument for scrubbing embarrassing Facebook photos, however. I'm sympathetic as heck on that front.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment