How will Right To be forgotten work?

1. How will Google and other search engines determine what’s “relevant”? Someone applying for a job might feel that a link to a past nightclub altercation isn’t relevant and should be deleted. The prospective employer might feel it’s very relevant (especially if the employer is another nightclub). In Germany, a former SS commando named Henrich Boere who was a Nazi hit man during World War II tried to invoke the right to be forgotten in bringing charges against reporters who secretly videotaped his confession. A judge acquitted the reporters. But the question remains: Whose standard of relevancy applies?

2. What does it mean for personal information to be “inadequate”? If a news story mentions a drunk-driving arrest but fails to note that the driver was Phi Beta Kappa, is that inadequate? No single link can be expected to portray a person in all of his or her complexity. If that’s what adequacy means, it’s an impossibly high standard that could lead to wholesale destruction of the system of links that make up the Internet. The decision “allows individuals to complain to search engines about information they do not like with no legal oversight,” Index on Censorship, an advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books.”

3. If passage of time is important, as indicated by the “no longer relevant” standard, then how much time must pass? Is it two months for a mildly embarrassing gaffe at a holiday party but five years for a bankruptcy filing? Statutes of limitations have grown out of common law, developing over centuries in tandem with changing societal norms. The European Court of Justice is essentially ordering Google and others to create a parallel statute of limitations for Internet links with no history or principles to go by.

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