The fact that anyone who happens to be anywhere at any time can look you up, and find out just about anything that they want about you is something that has unsettled both the public and privacy regulators throughout the world. Measures to limit this practice, widely known as “the right to be forgotten” have been put in place across Europe so that people’s privacy can be protected if they so desire.
France, always known to be one of the staunchest of dissenters, have taken up the crusade against Google, and determined that Google’s appeal about RTBF is complete nonsense. Search engines and their ability to look up everyone at any time are at a crossroads, and we could see some interesting turn of events in the coming months.
What is the right to be forgotten?
In a nutshell, the RTBF means that you can tell google to get rid of all links pertaining to you so that people cannot type in your name, and look at your past if you don’t want them to. It has caused a lot of controversy around the world.
What was the appeal?
The privacy regulator in France rejected Google’s appeal against expanding the right to be forgotten internationally. As the law currently sits, the company is only removing links from the domains of specific nations – Google.fr, for example. However, they have not been removing the links from their global index, which means that anyone can simply access the links and content from Google.com if they’d like. This undermines the national ruling of France, and they have thus threatened sanctions.
A dangerous crossroads
On one side are the French and other nations who want to protect their citizens’ privacy, and on the other are web content providers who don’t want their content censored against their will. France is arguing that they have the right to censor Google across the globe, while the tech giant maintains that they are complying with the law within France, and that is where their jurisdiction ends. A dangerous precedent could be set if a single nation is allowed to censor material across the globe due to their beliefs.
Allowing nations to regulate their information globally has been used in the past for repressive purposes, and continuing to do so is a detriment to the dissemination of information. France’s intentions, good as they may be, do not fairly address the issue. While they see it merely as trying to enforce their own laws to protect their citizens, what they are in fact asking for is the right for one nation to censor the information of other nations, and that is something that Google cannot allow.
Search engines have provided remarkable opportunities for work, study, business, and fun. Being able to find anything you want by simply typing in a few words into a search bar has brought amazing opportunities to people across the world. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its dangers, though. Remember what you say or do could be held against you in the court of Google’s search engine index. All the more reason to make sure you control your presence on the web very closely.