The whole Internet is on fire today over a European Union court ruling that search engines must respond to individual complaints about inaccurate and irrelevant data that can be found when searching for a particular individual online. I’m not sure why I think adding my tiny voice to the din will do any good. But even if it’s just cathartic, here goes.
This ruling is even dumber than most of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings about voting rights and free speech in the past few years. It is naive and insane.
First, it’s absolutely impractical and unenforceable. It will lead to a glut of tiny civil suits where people bitch about Google search results finding and displaying an old or embarrassing photograph of someone.
Second, the ruling goes after the wrong outlet. It’s the publisher of the source material, not the search engine that in the normal course of operations happens to find it, that is the offending party here. (And all too often that’s going to turn out to be the individual who’s bitching. Can you say Facebook?)
Third — and this s perhaps the most important here — the whole idea of a “right to be forgotten” is so stupid as to not bear up any real scrutiny. As many have pointed out, the mere fact that some bit of data isn’t found by Google doesn’t mean it’s “forgotten”. People who have stuff they want forgotten need to pursue the sites where the data is hosted, not the innocent search engine.
This whole thing is akin to a reporter being sued for reporting a true fact about the subject of a story that the subject finds irrelevant or embarrassing.
Intelligent, aware, educated Europeans must be cringing this morning at the idiocy of these judges.
Surely Google will appeal, fight, and hold this action up in court for as long as its reserves hold out.