I’ve avoided talking about this story until it progressed further. Historically Google has had many take-down requests, many to do with “piracy” and there’s also court order’s for ISP blocks on domains – we already have an increasing trend towards censorship. But is some censorship good? Whilst the copyright take-down’s and ISP blocks are mostly useless, with the recent ruling involving Google removing search results for you and me, requires further examination.
It is reported that Google has had around 12000 requests as a result of the ECJ ruling where applicants want a link removed from Google pertaining to their name. If you are outside of the EU its tough luck. How this works if you are dual nationality, who knows?
Now imagine there’s a holiday snap of you dressed as a Dalek where you had far too much to drink and were harassing the holiday rep with your Dalek exterminator. It can be understood that you may not want that associated with you. Employers are increasingly looking to the Internet in order to gain an insight into potential employee’s so in this instance the request seems quite reasonable.
Now lets consider the sex offender. It is reported that a convicted sex offender has requested links to be taken down. Is this reasonable? I’d say no, certainly not – he/she has been convicted, it is the public’s right to know.
It’s also important to remember that the material is not removed, merely the reference Google has to it.
So lets say you make that request for a removal to a drunk photo. Google accepts it in theory but now needs to check that a/ the photo is you. b/ the person making the request is you. And all that work for even the most simple request.
I’ll not sit on the fence here. If you are convicted of a criminal offence and request that link to be removed – tough. If you are looking to remove a photo or similar, just consider that other search engines will no doubt see an increase of use, since when the take-down’s start, people will lose faith in the search results they get from Google. Also, is this going to be an ongoing task? If your drunk photo link is removed, what is to stop another page being created with the same photo on it? Are Google expected to monitor the “offending” information and make sure it doesn’t appear elsewhere? Even if Google doesn’t receive any more requests, could even 12,000 be handled in this way?
Just like the Copyright industry found, these type of actions don’t work. This ruling to me suggests more of a covert attack on Google’s dominance of search by the EU because when looking for details on someone, people will merely look elsewhere – there’s plenty of choice.
Also, if an offender gets a link removed, you can almost guarantee that someone will find out who it was and then give even more publicity to the link and person that was subject to the request.
In implementing this decision, we will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information,
And since when is it up to Google to decide what is and isn’t the public’s right to know? Whilst I am unhappy that Google seems to be a target by Europe, I also unhappy that Google would be making these decisions.