Google Faces More Scrutiny Over Right To Be Forgotten - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IT Life
01:05 PM

Google Faces More Scrutiny Over Right To Be Forgotten

A group of 80 Web academics have penned an open letter to Google insisting on more transparency for right to be forgotten requests in Europe.

6 Ways To Master The Data-Driven Enterprise
6 Ways To Master The Data-Driven Enterprise
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The rise of social networking, along with the Web's ubiquitous presence in daily life, has made the concept of immortality more tangible, but a group of 80 Internet academics is challenging Google to be more forthcoming as to how it removes information about individuals from cyberspace.

The letter points out that Google, among other search engines, has been enlisted to make decisions about the proper balance between personal privacy and access to information. However, these giants of information face little public scrutiny, even though they shape public discourse and serve as massive catalogues of information.

They writers argue the public should be able to find out how digital platforms exercise their power over accessible information.

The group released the letter on May 13, just about a year after the right to be forgotten policy started within the European Union. Google faces more scrutiny in Europe over privacy issues compared to the US, and the search engine giant has struggled to keep up with some of the requests coming from Europeans.

[Read about Google and the right to be forgotten.]

The right to be forgotten -- RTBF -- a concept discussed and put into practice in the European Union (EU) and Argentina since 2006, is a complicated notion involving the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and a sort of statute of limitations on the use, or misuse, of private information regarding past actions.

(Image: Hebi65 via Pixabay)

(Image: Hebi65 via Pixabay)

The letter states:

Beyond anecdote, we know very little about what kind and quantity of information is being delisted from search results, what sources are being delisted and on what scale, what kinds of requests fail and in what proportion, and what are Google's guidelines in striking the balance between individual privacy and freedom of expression interests.

In January, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued a statement requiring Google to sign a formal undertaking to improve the information it provides to people about how it collects personal data in the UK after concerns were raised around changes to the company's privacy policy.

In a May 2014 ruling, Google Spain V. AEPD and Mario Costeja González, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that individuals have the right to ask search engines like Google to remove certain results about them.

According to Google, the company has received over 250,000 individual requests concerning one million URLs in the past year, and has delisted from name search results just over 40% of the URLs that it has reviewed.

"Naturally, there is some tension between transparency and the very privacy protection that the RTBF is meant to advance," the open letter acknowledged, noting the revelations that Google has made so far show that there is a way to steer clear of disclosure dangers.

The consortium implores the search giant to find a balance between individual privacy and public discourse interests.

"The public deserves to know how the governing jurisprudence is developing," the letter, written by Ellen Goodman, a professor of the Rutgers University School of Law, and Julia Powers, a researcher with the University of Cambridge's law faculty, concluded.

"We hope that Google, and all search engines subject to the ruling, will open up."

[Did you miss any of the InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas last month? Don't worry: We have you covered. Check out what our speakers had to say and see tweets from the show. Let's keep the conversation going.]

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2015 | 9:10:29 AM
google policies about keeping old information
i run a small business. 5 years ago a terrrible comment was posted as "feedback". The person lied, exaggerated, told people to stay away. She also was a "one-star" reviewer of many businesses. Her attack was far from kind or balanced, honest, and the level of anger seemed so off from the actual event. Google defends her comments. Assumes her right. They won't even entertain the possibility that her biased view was more about her than us. Businesses are suspect and disbelieved. As far as I can see there is absolutely no arbitration of any issue other than if they are cursing or using some hate speech.

There is no time limit on this feedback either. According to google, it should stay up forever. They told me to get other customers to post positive feedback to counter the bad. But this seems to be only playing by their rules. I don't want to ask customers to do this.

Wouldn't it seem more fair to have a time limit, right or wrong, on feedback ?

Don't businesses have rights to have these types of attacks taken down?

And what about having some rights as businesses to take some destructive feedback down. like having one or more "chips" a year so we could block some comments based on our integrity. Sort of like each year you get points taken off your drivers licence for good driving.

In the modern world "window shopping" has taken on a whole new concept. Should anyone be allowed to say whatever they want and stick it in our shop windows? Googles advice is that i "respond" to the comments in public. This could have disastorous results and set off a fight in my shop window. 







User Rank: Ninja
5/17/2015 | 8:16:05 PM
Re: I wonder...
The amount of information Google has about people is pretty immense. I don't think most people realize just how voluminous the information it has. If they knew, many might be pretty darn concerned about it. Governmental bodies like the EU have problems with it obviously, and I can certainly see why. 
User Rank: Ninja
5/16/2015 | 12:14:28 AM
Re: Will everyone exercise this right equally?
Charlie, people should be able to be forgotten on their own. Self-service. No need to apply for it. Ridiculous that you have to apply for permission to be forgotten. Europe is this big bastion of privacy, right, except that as far as they could get it to force Google to allow people to ask for permission to be forgotten. Bogus.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/14/2015 | 7:11:38 PM
Will everyone exercise this right equally?
This is a right that I fear is inherently discriminatory. Only those with the money and leisure to insist on its enforcement will be able to exercise it. An aggrieved party has to call the issue to Google's attention, supply answers to any questions and check up on what Google's internal decision was. Does anyone kinow how this works, really? I would rather laws be enacted that can apply to everybody, although the "apply to everybody," regardless of income, standard has been problematic since the first law's adoption.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/14/2015 | 6:11:21 PM
I wonder...
...if Google became a credit agency, would it be required to forget things about people?
What Becomes of CFOs During Digital Transformation?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  2/4/2020
Fighting the Coronavirus with Analytics and GIS
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/3/2020
IT Careers: 10 Job Skills in High Demand This Year
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  2/3/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Current Issue
IT 2020: A Look Ahead
Are you ready for the critical changes that will occur in 2020? We've compiled editor insights from the best of our network (Dark Reading, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, ITPro Today and Network Computing) to deliver to you a look at the trends, technologies, and threats that are emerging in the coming year. Download it today!
Flash Poll