Even if you (and I certainly do) suspect that permanent memory of everybody’s ill-advised juvenalia and whatnot will have less than desirable consequences(best case, we’ll have a generation or so of people whose idiotic mistakes aren’t etched into the historical record beating up on people whose idiotic mistakes are, more likely people whose idiotic mistakes aren’t socially acceptable will become even easier whipping boys for those whose idiotic mistakes are, forever), it’s hard to even pretend that a judicially-imposed flavor of ‘forgetting’ won’t swiftly be turned to the requirements of people with lawyer hours to burn, while largely ignoring, at least until it’s too late, the powerless saps at the bottom of the pile who probably need the anonymity the most.
Barring the invention of a magic legal process that requires zero time or money to achieve the same results as substantial money and/or time, all the pious assurances to the contrary just don’t provide much reassurance. Nor do the initial results, shockingly enough.
Philosophically speaking, is it smart to keep everything around, just in case it may have some kind of importance in the future?
I’d rather google start to forget the spam and bullshit ASAP, so I can get back to proper semantic search queries.
‘Help! Help! The gods gave me this box and told me never to open it, but I opened it, and now all the world’s evils have been unleashed! Is there no way to put them back inside?’
No, poor Pandora, there is not.
I keep a lot of email spam.
It is handy to train the Bayesian filters when needed.
So what happens when Google’s spiders crawl this site? Do we get infinite recursion?
On a more serious note, Google is obviously deliberately implementing this horribly, and they are completely right to do so. If the Europeans are going to do this, the right way to do it is to require a court order EVERY TIME, and have the court sent the notice to Google. Google is in a position where if they ever judge that a case doesn’t have merit, they’re opening themselves to a lawsuit, so they have to just take down anything that anyone requests.
Good implementation is impossible. The initial case, the one that won the judgment, was a Spaniard who was tired of searches for him turning up notices of a personal bankruptcy he’d filed a couple of decades ago.
But even if you agree with that plaintiff, how the heck do you draw the lines? Is it two decades for personal bankruptcy? One decade? Half? Does it depend on the amount of debt? What if there were accusations of fraud? And then there’s assault, murder, who knows what else. There is no conceivable fair and just implementation.
Nice choice of illustration to go along with the article!
So what if you created a kind of system of parallel spiders, that would run a large number of queries through google.com and google.fr and google.cn and so on, collate the results, discern the patterns of which sites are omitted in which domains, and disclose it all to the public? Or would that make you Aaron Swartz?
No, bankruptcy proceedings are part of the public record forever. The credit agencies are required to forget, but not the courts.
But this ruling isn’t about destroying public records. The initial ruling insisted that Google alter queries for this Spaniard so that they would no longer reveal the existence of newspaper reports of those public records; the newspaper reports also aren’t affected, just their Google availability.
So, we now know that if you’re embarrassed by a past personal bankruptcy, and it’s been a couple of decades, and maybe if you’re Spanish and male, you can insist Google hide reports of this public record from its searches. But, as I said above, this doesn’t tell us the formula for each complex set of circumstances. Such a formula isn’t feasible, and this policy cannot be fairly implemented.
Apparently Team Europe has learned the true brilliance of the DMCA’s ‘safe harbor’ design: No, no, of course this law doesn’t empower just anybody who can sling a form letter to make legally binding demands. It just means that any form letters you fail to obey will be treated as willful infringement unless you win the resulting lawsuit, which is totally different but just happens to have very similar effects…
Is ChillingEffects.org working on anything like this? You’d think it would be right up their alley.
Come to think of it, the whole notion of “infinite recursion of censorship” doesn’t seem to have been borne out in practice; when Google is forced to hide a result by a DMCA notice, they link to the notice’s entry on Chilling Effects, which generally includes the URL that you weren’t supposed to see.
The most frightening part of this whole nonsense is the way that the “right to be forgotten” has never been agreed by any politician in Europe. It is wholly judge-made law, seriously impeding the rights of Europeans to free speech and to scrutinise those in power. It’s a great example of why those people who think the European Union is a protection for fundamental rights are badly wrong.
Just like the … NSA?!
(Is “NSA” the new “Hitler”? Can Godwin’s Law get updated?)
It doesn’t seriously impede anything. It only forces google to remove a search listing from it’s European servers, it doesn’t remove the original site, it doesn’t remove the listing from Google.com, and it doesn’t remove anything else.
So, I’m sure Mr Robert Daniels-Dwyer, was very happy that the top hit for his name on google.co.uk was no longer a newspaper article about him being convicted of shoplifting, instead, it’s now an article in the same newspaper about the search result being removed, and offering it’s own link to the original story.
That’s the thing, he can’t get the newspaper to remove the story, because they have a freedom to report that he was convicted of a crime. All he can do is remove a single line from a search listing. It’s less useful than getting your phone number removed from the phonebook.
It’s the same thing with DMCA take down notices. It’s impossible for the ISPs/Websites to properly police or judge them accordingly, so they have to assume the worst, which as we all know, is the opposite of “innocent before proven guilty.”
These types of laws are being enacted because no one cares about how easy it is to put up bullshit compared to the difficulty of detecting bullshit.
But no fear, citizen, the NSA/CIA is hard at work on a bullshit detector!
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