The Right to be Forgotten, and Forgotten, and Forgotten…

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.


3 thoughts on “The Right to be Forgotten, and Forgotten, and Forgotten…”

  1. Mr I Hymowitz


    Interesting article, but whats your opinion on people who have either been wrongly convicted or have had their cases not proven?

    If the details of their case have been released on the web & not amended to comply with the facts they have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Should a new partner happen to do a Google search on their partners name & they come across this inaccurate information, what are they to do?

    There are always two sides to a story!

    1. Good point, and I can see a genuine purpose for some kind of “right to be forgotten” under those circumstances. However, the way the act is set up at the moment, people who have been proven guilty (as in the story referred to in this article) also have the right and they currently constitute the majority of successful requests.

      On the other side of the coin; what about when a guilty person has his/her records expunged from Google search – should their new partners not have the right to know what they may be getting into?

      You cannot change a person’s history simply by erasing search engine links.

      1. I have mixed feelings.
        1. Guilty or not, time served, penance done, and people do change. It is difficult enough to get a job — where I live — without having to pay for your “crime” or “mistake” over and over by being refused employment.

        2. New partners? It wasn’t that long ago, people had to use their brains, their experience, their intuition to find out about new acquaintances and possible lovers. — Oh, yeah, right. Who wants to take time to get to know someone anymore?

        3. I once looked up the name of a person who I knew had been convicted of a serious crime. It had all the information right, but the picture was of someone else. OH! Google made a mistake??? Someone else made a mistake??

        4. But then again, where does this go on the Freedom of Speech scale?


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