Is it me or does it seem like Google’s in court an awful lot lately? What was the last one I blogged about…Google losing over being able to scan in and create the world’s largest digital library at the expense of living authors around the world? Not to worry. Tony and myself are keeping track of it all. So, what’s up with this whole Right to be Forgotten debacle?
Imagine a time when you were younger, lots younger. Or, if you’re young, imagine being lots older and remembering the time you are now. Further imagine that you did something somewhat silly in your youth and there’s a record of it. Worse yet, perhaps someone sued you for something that wasn’t your fault, only the record of it not being your fault was never written about is some form or another that also wasn’t picked up by the search engines. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Maybe you’ve even managed to snag a decent job in the current economy. But do you really want a record of being cited for urinating in public all those years ago available today? And it’s just one story that’s prompted a lawsuit by about 90 folks in Spain who would like to see some of these records deleted from the search engine.
The first question that comes up, though, is whether or not these are a matter of public record? If so, will they ask that even those references be removed or destroyed? Is it practical to delete records like those? What’s to stop another search engine from picking up on them? Can it even be done? Google may well have to find out and the court will have to find answers to these questions.
Another disturbing thought is if the Right to be Forgotten manages to go through the court system not in favor of Google, what will happen in the rest of the world? What about China? They already rule their internet with an iron fist, but to then be given cart blanche to delete records from internet history? It comes across as a little bit Big Brother.
Perhaps in the case of the high school principal from Madrid, he could turn it around and use it as a lesson to his students of the consequences of one’s actions. If we start forgetting the little things, what’s to stop us from forgetting the bigger things? Does Tiananmen Square ring a bell?