Fallout from the Right to Be Forgotten

EU Court’s Vague Decision Already Leading to Confusion

Screen-Shot-2012-04-02-at-7.18.19-AM[1]On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice recognized a right to be forgotten, ordering Google to remove links to a man’s old debt records. It’s been barely a day, and things are getting crazy. Google has already received a number of requests for link removal. For example, a politician seeking re-election has requested links to an article regarding his past behavior in office be deleted. A man convicted of possessing child abuse images has sought the deletion of any mention of his record erased, and a doctor doesn’t want any more negative reviews from patients popping up.

So who decides what is worthy of deletion? The EU has set up regulators at 28 different agencies across the EU. This probably means there will be at least 28 different interpretations of what is deemed proper of erasure. Since the search engines and social media sites will be the targets of these requests, they will need new departments to sort through the paperwork. Ultimately, it will lead to severely restricted speech, as companies find it is cheaper to comply with requests than it is to fight them before the regulators.

I fully acknowledge that this is an American viewpoint. American’s First Amendment rights are very different that the rights in Europe, including the French right to be forgotten, “le droit à l’oubli.” Nonetheless, the Court’s decision was so vague that it will create a hindrance on speech in Europe that goes beyond their tolerance. Consider the examples noted above. Is this really the kind of thing that should be erased?

Remember, this is not just a European decision. Any online business with European customers will be subject to erasure requests.

BBC – Politician and paedophile ask Google to ‘be forgotten’

Wall Street Journal – What Is the ‘Right to Be Forgotten?’

NYTimes – One Court Ruling on Privacy in Europe, and 28 Regulators