The EU has told Google it must delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data on request from individuals. The journalist in me just turned over in his grave.
Google, of course, doesn’t actually store this information – it simply finds it and makes it easy for others to find. Telling Google to screen results in this way is similar to asking the Post Office to make sure nobody sends me pictures of something I don’t like.
But assuming Google can tweak its algorithms to do this, or more likely hire staff whose sole job is to vet information upon request to remove links to such things, I would question why we would want it and whether Google is the right company to ask this of.
Let’s assume you, like me, did something silly back when you were a teen. I’m lucky – cameras weren’t invented back then, let alone digital cameras, let alone the internet, let alone… I’m one of the safe ones. My youthful stupidity can remain firmly in the past, and I wouldn’t be happy if it was dragged up today.
What if, instead of youthful exuberance, my past data is actually about that time I committed fraud, or ran a company into bankruptcy? It might be decades ago but next year, when I run for President of the World, that will be relevant, surely? Will Google be required to keep the forbidden data in case circumstances change?
And who gets to decide whether that information is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”? Google shouldn’t – it’s not an editorial control agent, it’s a bunch of geeks who are very good at maths. It’s also a company hell bent on making money – does this same ruling apply to Bing? Making Google arbiter of your privacy is odd, to put it mildly.
Unfortunately, we do live in an age where all such things can be captured electronically and stored for decades to come. Fortunately, we also live in an age where all such things can be captured electronically and stored for decades to come. Big data is here, and we have to live with it, but telling Google to selectively forget some things displays a shocking lack of awareness about how the internet works, how privacy works and how the ability to research an issue shouldn’t be hampered by today’s moral codes.