Google's Response to the "Right to Be Forgotten" Is Just Perfect

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In May, the EU Court of Justice ruled that because people have the "right to be forgotten," Google must remove links from European versions of search, just because people ask them to. But you can't hide from the past on the internet.

The requirement that Google take down links for the right to be forgotten is just lame censorship. Overtly! It's the removal of inconvenient facts from published public view because somebody wants the facts to disappear. It's a bit like the producers of Friday Night Lights calling on the Ministry of Truth to have Season 2 erased from the record because it's inferior to the rest of the series.


And people are taking advantage. TechDirt reports that Google has already received tens of thousands of requests from people who want embarrassing stories about them out of sight. In fairness, who doesn't have a secret they want to cover up?

But it's not as simple as just saying "please take down that link, Google" and having it quietly disappear. The search giant has taken the smart (and slyly funny) step of highlighting the stories people want removed one last time by notifying sites that they've been delinked. If you tell a journalism outfit that their story has been taken down, how do you think they're going to respond? The BBC posted one of its removal requests:

Notice of removal from Google Search: we regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google:…robertpeston/2007/10/merrills_mess.html

If you read the story in question, you'll notice that the only person mentioned is former Merrill Lynch chief Stan O'Neal who was ousted after losing huge amounts of money. The BBC obviously figured out that it was probably O'Neal that wanted the link taken down—because who else would it be?


Oopsies Stan! Looks like your dirty laundry is flapping in the wind all over again. And all because you tried to cover it up.

Google's passionless transparency is a wonderful reaction to censorship, and in this case, a triumph for truth. It'd be better if nothing was getting de-indexed at all, but this is at least a delicious reminder that you can't run away from your past on the internet. Nothing really goes away, and if you're an idiot, you'll pay the price forever. [TechDirt and BBC]