Google’s ongoing battle with European regulators over the right to be forgotten has been well documented, Now, it seems, UK authorities are taking the concept one step further by denying the right to report on “right to be forgotten” events. Confused? Allow me to explain.
We start with the original articles regarding a ten-year old conviction for shoplifting which, following a request from the person convicted of the crime, had successfully been de-listed from Google’s search engine . This in itself then became newsworthy with news media publishing stories of the de-listing, including details relating to the original crime, which were then duly indexed by Google’s search engine.
Google refused to take down the links relating to the new news story, citing significant public interest and claiming they constituted a valid and current news story. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) subsequently waded in ordering Google to remove nine links to current news stories about previously removed news stories.
Apparently, the sticking point is including the complainant’s name in follow up stories. The commission argues that it is in contravention of the act when a search for the complainant’s name elicits any details relating to a story which has already been ordered removed. Deputy commissioner David Smith explained it thus:
We understand that links being removed as a result of this court ruling is something that newspapers want to write about. And we understand that people need to be able to find these stories through search engines like Google. But that does not need them to be revealed when searching on the original complainant’s name.
Apparently, it’s okay for news media to report on right to be forgotten events as long as the they don’t include specifics – which would tend to make it not a story any more.
Personally, I think the whole concept is ridiculous and wonder where it’s all going to end. We all make silly mistakes, it’s part of the human condition, part of who we are, part of each individual’s history, and can’t be expunged simply by removing links to news stories from search engines.