Google has now agreed to remove links from all of its domains – including Google.com – that are accessible from a European country in which the company has acquiesced to a citizen’s invocation of his or her “right to be forgotten” as spelled out in Europe’s radical privacy laws, according to the New York Times.
Google had previously argued that it was only necessary to remove such links from results provided by the Google site registered under the home country’s top level domain.
The Times reports:
In practice, (the change) would mean a successful request from someone in Spain, for example, would lead to the removal of the link from Google’s European online search domains, and from all of its non-European sites — including Google.com — accessible from that specific country. Search results for individuals outside the European Union will not be affected, and links on Google’s non-European domains will still be accessible from other European countries.
At least for now. This slope couldn’t possibly be any slipperier.
Despite Google’s renewed efforts to appease European privacy concerns, it remains unclear whether the company’s actions will be enough to head off the continuing legal disputes from Europe’s national data protection authorities, who want Google to apply the right-to-be-forgotten ruling across its global operations.
That would seem inevitable and how Google responds will determine whether American-style freedom of expression and freedom of the press prevails here in the United States and elsewhere or is hamstrung by run-amok European censorship.
And in the meantime none of this line-drawing involving domains addresses the utter futility of attempting to erase history through search-engine manipulation. Removing links from a search engine does not remove embarrassing or “outdated” content from the Internet. It merely inconveniences those trying to find it.
A “right to be forgotten” is meaningless when it is unattainable, yet the collateral damage caused by the quest for it is quite real.
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