A couple weeks ago, the internet lit up with the news of the European Court of Justice ruling that would require Google to delete irrelevant or outdated information from their search results. "Finally!" you might've thought. "I can get those frat party pics out of my results!" But, as a new Associated Press story makes clear, that's just not the case.
If you're an American citizen, chances are you'll never be able to edit your Google results. At the very least, you won't be doing it any time soon. Under the new European ruling applies only to search engines in Europe, and even then, Google doesn't yet have a system in place for how takedown requests will work. Furthermore, internet policy experts in the United States have long known that imposing such a "right to be forgotten" would be at odds with the First Amendment and, more generally, with the American understanding of privacy.
Now, however, U.S. officials are simply calling the court decision in Europe silly. "Americans will find their searches bowdlerized by prissy European sensibilities," Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told the Associated Press. "We'll be the big losers. The big winners will be French ministers who want the right to have their last mistress forgotten."
The AP similarly got a number of American sources on record saying similar things, from a privacy attorney who called the ruling "aspirational, not a reality," to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who called the ruling a "technologically incompetent violation of human rights." In an earlier New York Times op-ed, Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain said the ruling was "a poor solution… both too broad and curiously narrow."
So if you want to get rid of those frat party pics, the best solution now is the same as it was a month ago: complicated. Even if you live in Europe, it's going to take some time before there's a handy form that'll let you delete links from your search results. And even then, the links you'll be able to remove (read: the irrelevant or outdated ones) aren't the ones you probably want to remove (read: the relevant and embarrassing ones). At least deleting yourself from social media isn't so hard. [AP]
Image via Revolution689 / DeviantArt