A version of this article first appeared in Jane Binnion’s column in the Lancaster Guardian
What is ‘The right to be forgotten’ ?
One of the concerns that people talk to me about is, with so much information being on- line, can old information be dragged up and used against you? – as in the case of the Police Youth Commissioner Paris Brown, who resigned because of tweets she had posted aged 13 and 14.
I always advise people to put their name, or their organisation’s name in the search bar of Google and see what comes up. If it’s things you‘re not happy with then, once you know, you can do something about it. Google’s advice was always that you need to find the website where that information is posted and ask them to remove it.
But then all that changed when, last month, the European Court of Justice brought the data protection act into the digital age and ruled on the ‘right to be forgotten’. This ruling is to allow ordinary people to request the removal of things linked to their name which is “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive; not kept up to date; or kept for longer than necessary”.
This all came about as a result of Mario Costeja González, who complained to Spain’s data protection authority that an auction notice of his repossessed home from 1998 appearing on Google’s search results, infringed his privacy.
This means that now there has to be a system so that all search engine providers in Europe have to take down links to a person’s names when asked. This is going to be interesting and Google aren’t happy! To be fair they don’t create the content on the websites they just find it and since the ruling, Google has had thousands of requests, apparently including a request from a doctor wanting to remove negative reviews of his work and one from a politician seeking re-election who wants to cover up his past.
But the court did say that a balance needs to be struck between the public interest, especially with people who have a prominent role in society, and Google is going with that and considering each request individually. So we can expect courts across Europe to be getting even busier.
Well this is an exciting new stage of our digital life and it will be interesting to see what happens, In the meantime if you want to make a request to Google they have a form on their help section but as they are considering all applications, it may take a while!
The irony for Mr González is that his story is no longer irrelevant and outdated, so it will continue to come up as a search result!
Have a good week and lets stay safe out there. Jane x