EU push for worldwide ‘right to be forgotten’ laws tests internet freedom

I wrote an article in May which commented that the rest of the world was not sure how the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling would be managed outside of the European Union.

 

Now, thanks to privacy and data protection groups, EU regulators are pushing for the EU court ruling on the ‘right to be forgotten’ to be extended worldwide.

 

Brief background

After the EU Court of Justice ruling requiring search engines to comply with ‘take down’ requests from individuals, Google has been trying to comply with the more than 90,000 requests it has received. It has removed approximately half of these so far from its European searches. It’s been a struggle since the ruling: how to decide who and what should have a right to be taken down, how to identify the person requesting the take down, the sheer numbers of requests, etc.

 

And companies, newspapers, journalists and other media outlets have been openly against this ‘take down’ move as their articles are no longer appearing in search engine searches.

 

‘Right to be removed’ causes flood of requests

First, after going through the massive task of removal requests that Google managed, there was widespread criticism about the links Google removed. So they reinstated some of the links.

 

The search engines have continued to struggle to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect people’s identities. They are dealing with a difficult process thanks to the vague EU Court of Justice ruling.

 

But still the EU regulators are not happy.

 

EU regulators unhappy with Google

 

Google had included a notice on search results pages where links were removed alerting people when stories or information was removed.

 

Regulators and data protection groups were not happy with this so, instead, Google’s European search results now show a message on nearly every search on a ‘name’ that results ‘might’ have been removed.

 

Google also did the right thing and alerted websites and businesses that the links were being removed. This, in some instances, ironically resulted in more publications writing about it and brought it back into the public eye. So, job well done, EU courts.

 

The EU wants to set regulation worldwide

 

The EU summonsed representatives from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to argue that the removals should be global and not just in Europe. And that the search engines should stop notifying websites if their stories were removed.

 

This push is primarily coming from privacy groups complaining that the removal of content on EU search engines only is ineffectual and that it must be across international search engines to be effective.

 

Can the EU set worldwide regulation of the internet?

 

The thought that EU courts can dictate content and how search engines work around the world seems ludicrous. A court that seems to think it can dictate how websites work in other countries will end up in a jurisdictional chaotic mess.

 

If they also block sites from being informed, this would seem to go against basic transparency principles and websites will be left wondering what happened to their articles that are now no longer available in Google searches around the world.

 

The issue and problem is still with the original EU ruling: that people should have the right to require removal of embarrassing, criminal, political or otherwise historical information they are not proud of on the internet.

 

The result of the privacy groups, data protection groups and regulators in the EU pushing may well result in Google ending up in European courts faced with legal action by member EU countries for many years to come. We can only hope it stays there.

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