Billions of links are indexed every day in Google to provide an infinite amount of information which is carried by the search engine’s Perpetuum mobile. From top rated news to mundane pieces of information, data and names, Google is the Mr. Know it all of our fast moving world. With giant amounts of content indexed, Google owns priceless information about each and every one of us.
The Anonymity era is slowly embracing its historical shade, leaving free way for new structures of reputation management tools to take shape. Anonymity thus slowly disappears from the reputation realm and becomes almost impossible nowadays, when all our personal information can easily be displayed as a result of a simple keyword search: Our names.
Under these terms and conditions, privacy becomes a pretention. We are used to spreading personal data everywhere on the World Wide Web, with accounts built on different platforms, with social media sharing and interactions, with public comments and the list can go on with more relevant and benevolent exposure.
Google manages all our personal data as to offer results to the ones who ask for it.
Do we have the right to control the way our personal information is outlined in search engines or should we rely on the Google algorithms to disseminate the information and trust that it doesn’t break the privacy bubble we all have the right to own?
This is the key question in the right to be forgotten regulation. Europe has adopted this rule as one that enables individuals to ask Google for removal of personal data. The challenge Google meets in this matter is in equitably considering the limits between information and privacy.
For common cases where people try to erase small and irrelevant pieces of information from their personal Google indexed data, the tech giant’s representatives can provide simple answers. If individual information is out of date or irrelevant for a certain overview, decisions are simple.
Serious problems arise when the question of moral appears, in cases that concern free speech, the rights to information and the nuances of individual rights for privacy.
Who controls who? The individual can now control the amount, type and relevance of information displayed about his personal history or does Google have entire monopole on what it selects through its algorithms?
This is where the right to be forgotten regulation could intervene. Because privacy is still a human right, Google is obliged to take requests for link removal, but only in certain cases. It seems that by now Europe is the only area that has benefited from the premises of this new moral approach on information. In the meantime, Google tries to maintain its safe position and avoid taking decisions at a large scale and with serious impact.
The only domains where information has been removed by request are Google.fr and Google.co.uk, but not Google.com. In the privacy sector, doing half the job is like not doing it at all, because a crack in information still remains, eventually causing privacy violation.
Google’s position didn’t go far enough, experts say. With great power comes great responsibility and Google should know about that, when managing almost all the written and registered online information in the world.
Yes, the greatest search engine started as a platform meant to organize all the information in the world, but organizing it also means selecting and disseminating it to the point where it doesn’t step on any human right.
This is a great pill to swallow for Google representatives who are challenged to take serious decisions in terms of what is to be done with all the information search engines carry.
The right to be forgotten regulation has little guidance on how take down requests should be decided, beyond the general implication that search results should be modified if they include links to inadequate, irrelevant, excessive or outdated information. Teams of lawyers, engineers and project managers at the tech giant are in charge with more complicated moral decisions but didn’t start to draw the premises of equitable selection yet.
It seems that taking responsibility for such provocative questions is something either Google or higher state authorities avoid, leaving us with a taste of uncertainty and a delicate smell of ambiguity.
Image Source: economist.com