“The story behing “the right to be forgotten” all started in Spain six years ago when Costeja Gonzalez asked Google to remove an online information about his home. The internet was saying that his home has been repossessed due to a tax debt when it had in fact been sold years earlier and tax had been paid. Google invited me to directly go to the headquarters in the US to complain about that information. Instead Costeja went to the Agency for Data Protection in Spain where they sent the case to court. Since then the European Union Court of Justice ruled in favour of the “right to be forgotten” saying that Google must delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its results when a member of the public requests it. With this decision the European Union established Google as a data controller and also reaffirmed the public interest against deletion.
As you can imagine the news spread quite quickly all over Europe. Google announced that it already received more than 70.000 request covering 250,000 webpages just a month after the ruling – 14.086 requests from France, 12.600 from Germany, 8.500 from England and 6.100 from Spain. More requests are expected to be sent out to Google who is already working on a solution.
The company has said to be “committed to complying with the court’s decision” but disagrees with it for a simple reason; as we all know removal from search engines does not remove the content from the internet, only the link. Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, described the situation as a double standard because it is “like saying the book can stay in the library but cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue.” Drummond explained the “right to be forgotten” contradicts freedom of expression from the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the language used by the court of Justice is “very vague” as Google will be responsible to decide wether the information that has received a removal request is of public interest or not.
Google has received multiple requests that “highlight the difficult value judgements search engines and European society” have to deal with. For instance, a politician send a request in order to change his online image and reputation for the next election; a “man convicted of possession with child abuse images” asked for the complete deletion of links linking to his case on the internet; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret).”