While some welcome the European Union’s ruling popularly known as the “right to be forgotten”, with some even waiting for a similar implementation in the US, there is, unsurprisingly some dissenting voices even within the Union. A committee from the UK’s House of Lords has called out the EU for its new policy, claiming that the Directive on which the ruling was based, as well as the EU Court’s interpretation of that directive, is outdated.
At the heart of the committee’s objection is how the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which is the basis for the right to be forgotten ruling, defines the term “data controller”. They believe that the definition was made at a time when search engines like Google did not yet exist as the giants they are now. But even more worrying for these Lords is the possibility that an upcoming update to the Directive would even classify search engine users, that is, people like you and me who Google (or Yahoo, or Bing) for things over the Internet, as data controllers. And lastly, they believed that those search engine users should not be given the right to have links to data about them removed just because they didn’t not agree with the content. A right that could be abused heavily by, for example, politicians.
Of course, Google’s implementation of this right to be forgotten doesn’t really let the Internet forget about you. It only makes Google forget about you, meaning that search results that link to those content that you have deemed inaccurate or outdated are erased. But that alone has already swamped Google’s European offices with thousands of requests, each of which must be reviewed by Google. And there lies another of the UK’s objections: the policy just does not scale. It does not work in today’s Internet age and only creates more complexity than it should.
At the heart of the matter is, perhaps, the very nature of the Internet. The Internet’s more open and enduring nature is, unfortunately, almost diametrically opposed to the individual’s right to privacy. And we’ve definitely seen cases where such an option to be forgotten is called for. The House of Lords’ contention, however, is that the European Union’s policy should not be based on an almost ancient perspective of the Internet.