Earlier this year Google and the European Union came to an agreement that Google would have to block certain search results in European countries. These blocked results come from the “right to be forgotten” which basically says that any citizen in a country represented by the EU can fill out a form and request that certain data about them be removed.
Google reluctantly submitted to the EU’s demands, which many feel interfere with the core of Google’s operations.
Now, Reuters is reporting that the EU doesn’t think that what Google is doing is enough.
Google has been complying with these “right to be forgotten” requests, however it’s been revealed that all someone needs to do in a European country to see the omitted results is go to the US or another country’s Google site and they are still there. The EU is requesting that Google take the requested search results down globally.
As Cory Doctorow at boingboing suggests, this is leading it’s way to very dangerous territory.
“This would be a policy disaster. If it’s legit for the EU to dictate what Google can publish in Canada, the US, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, why not vice-versa? I’m sure the Thai monarchy would love to extend its lese majeste censorship of material critical of the royal family to the rest of the world; the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice would like to use Wahabiism to filter the net; Putin would love to extend his ban on “homosexual propaganda” to the EU, and so on.” Dotorow said.
To date Google has received over 90,000 “right to be forgotten” requests and as you can imagine there will likely be many more. French, Italian and British governments have already fielded a handful of complaints that Google did not adhere to the policy.
Google has not responded to the most recent requests to change it’s policy regarding these take down requests. If Google were to comply and take results down globally that would spell disaster for the fundamental ways that Google’s search engine works. It would also pave the way for international startups in protected countries to offer services that would allow those in the USA, Canada and other countries to have their results omitted as well. In essence, going through a back door.
We’ll be keeping our eyes on this for sure.