Google was ordered by the Court of Justice for the European Union to delist individuals from search results under a “right to be forgotten.” Other search engines had to comply with the order as well. Certainly in the digital world information can be copied and stored anywhere. Even deleted pages can be resurrected by viewing a cached copy when available. The Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive allows one to search 456 billion preserved web pages over time. Many websites, not unlike this one, may repost a document or other information thus populating a web of hits and misses. I’m always surprised at what I find when I Google myself no matter how hard I hide from social media.
Google has reported that it has processed a quarter of a million requests to be forgotten comprising links to one million pages. So far, so good. France’s data regulators have ordered Google to delete links on a worldwide basis rather than limiting them to Europe. Google’s response was “non.” The company states that doing this would encourage other governments from enforcing similar “rights” which can be manipulated into censorship. I can understand that. Hostile elements in and out of government can use this kind of mechanism to marginalize opposition by limiting its web presence.
This is going to becomes a bit of a mess as it will likely lead to more litigation in Europe. I suspect Google may have to rethink some of its business practices there if it ultimately loses on a European court order that is essentially extra-territorial. In that case, Europe essentially sets a world-wide standard which, I think, is a dangerous precedent. Imagine a U.S. State, we’ll call it Texas, deciding what could and could not be taught about evolution in schools nationwide. We’ll all have to see how this one turns out.
More information comes from a post in Google’s Europe Blog.