While the World Wide Web may not forget, some of its larger service providers are being told they have to. This, after a European court ruling allowed individuals to have ‘irrelevant and outdated’ information about them returned in search results removed from the internet.
A doctor who received negative patient reviews; an ex-politician with bad office manners seeking re-election; a convicted child abuser granted permission to have information about his conviction wiped away.
The ruling on the right-to-be-forgotten rule was not commented on by Google, but the company did describe the judgment as ‘disappointing’. Other cases have since hit European courts since the original; a Spanish man who says an auction notice on his repossessed home (posted on Google) infringed on his privacy.
The right-to-be-forgotten ruling has come as a shock to many as it contradicts the European Union’s advocate general who, only last year, said that search engines were not obligated to honor such requests. However, EU Commissioner, Viviane Reding, says the decision is, “a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans.”
While others such as Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, cry foul saying the ruling is ‘astonishing’, free speech advocates at The Index on Censorship said the ruling, “should send chills down the spine of everyone in the European Union who believes in the crucial importance of free expression and freedom of information.” The court stands firm, saying, “An individual’s desires outweigh society’s interest in the complete facts around incidents.”