Here’s a fun fact: We live in a world of public information. Don’t believe me? Just type in “who is the world’s worst politician?” on Google and see the results pop up. Funnily enough, my third result is Francois Hollande of France. See? It’s a fun exercise and informative too.
The issue with this is that the EU, European Union is on a crunch to limit the public data, as relates to individuals, that Google is allowed to use in their search results. Does that sound even remotely familiar in a historical context? Let’s go a little further down the rabbit hole (thanks Lewis Carrol) shall we? Recently, this year, The EU won a legal case against Google inspiring the Right to be Forgotten Guidelines. For those who are not already aware of what this means; this means that all EU citizens can apply for Google to take down relevant links to themselves in search results, providing they have a meritorious case. The same applies to sites that people find are irrelevant or damaging to personal beings. The most recent statistics from Google concerning the Right to be Forgotten are:
678,820 URLs evaluated for removal
187,805 total requests from individuals
40.2% of requests have been acceded to
I am of this opinion that while there are some situations where it is appropriate to keep personal information hidden, for the most part, everything should be public domain. Having a child, I am doing everything I can to limit the amount of public exposure he has, and am very strict with my in-laws about them posting his person online. Until my children have the ability to determine whether or not they want an online presence, I am doing everything I can to shield them from one. That is the only situation I can see to remove information from the public domain of the Internet, and Google is doing a good job of removing content pertaining to minors upon request.
However, as an adult you should be intelligent enough to now get yourself into situations where your information is wanted for public knowledge, and when it does are capable of handling the consequences. Using social media is a choice, and so is posting photos of yourself online too.
So that’s the Right to be Forgotten and my view on it, but that is just where this conversation starts. The EU is taking their victory to new extremes and this is where the international statutes on sovereignty need to intervene. If this is confusing to you, then let me help you clear it up. The European Union has decided that since they have won the Right to be Forgotten in European courts, that ruling should be extended to the whole world.
Is it starting to make sense yet?
This means that living in the USA, or China, or South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, and wanting to find information about a potential business partner, a former associate, or anything relating to the personal information of an individual who has submitted a request to have his or her information be taken down from the Internet could be impossible
This terrifies me.
It’s not because I have anything to be ashamed of, or because I regularly search my European counterparts and am afraid I will no longer be able to find information about them, but because this concept now will potentially infringe upon the sovereign rights of the populations of all countries not in the EU based on this case.
There is no justifiable case, in my mind, for the European Union to have the ability to determine what I search, and what results, that are inherently public domain, from whatever country I happen to reside in. This infringes on the United States of America’s right to free speech and freedom of expression. Doubt it? Think about it. If you cannot research your international competition, or the crimes others have committed for international or judicial due process then you are inherently limiting the amount of data that can be used to protect yourself and your clients, as well as discovering whether or not certain people have developed habits that could affect you. That necessarily limits the amount of expression and speech you have at your disposal in any given situation. Throw in the mix, that everything posted on the internet comes with a lack of expectation of privacy and it becomes suddenly more real that what the EU proposes has the potential to seriously damage availability of knowledge concerning anyone.
To me, this is a serious overstep that will have to graduate from the European courts to the international courts, in which the United States and all pro-rights nations should stand up and say “NO!” to the Right to be Forgotten.
I’m going to leave you with an analogy.
If I was a politician and I slipped a piece of legislation into an end of session budget bill that allowed banks to play with derivatives while being insured by the government, and then requested that information to be taken off of Google, and google acceded to my request; would that be acceptable to you?