Gideon’s full contribution is set out below:
“We will have generations of people growing up with vast amounts of
information about them online, some put there by themselves, but also material
uploaded by others. Much of that information will be outside their control and
available at multiple online locations. It’s unacceptable that a person can be
Judged forevermore by one thing that has happened in their lives, whether a
silly comment, an unfortunate photograph, or something taken out of context.
For too long search engines have hidden claiming not to be the publishers and
telling people to take any issues up with those actually hosting the
information. However, this was a self-serving over simplistic view of the
Internet and how most people find information. Of course it would be good if
information could be taken offline at source, and there are laws that can be
used to assist with such situations, however, it has always been blatantly
obvious that removing a search result would be an efficient way of minimizing
damage caused to the individual by information online.
Whether Google should be judging specific requests for the removal of results
is another matter. Ultimately, it’s a company with its own interests and its
problems. So I would welcome there being a proper body or bodies, with some
kind of quasi-judicial or data-protection background, dealing with requests in
an organized and methodical manner; with appeals available through the Courts.
The young should be allowed to grow up, and, the law should protect them, so
that, in the absence of a legitimate and serious public interest reason to the
contrary, they are not judged forever by foolish things that they or others
have said or done.
The Internet has changed a lot of what we do in reputation protection. I’ve
been doing this for the last 15 years and certainly in the last 10 years, most
of what we do tends to have an Internet element (social media, blog sites,
dealing with broadcasters or the Press who have an online presence etc.).
While Google are still determining what they are going to do and how they are
going to do it, it may be wise, if it involves a sensitive issue, to wait
before requesting the removal of results. It’s unlikely to be best to be a test
case, as it may generate publicity for the very thing that a person wants
“forgotten”. There seems to be an attempt both in the press and by search companies
to highlight the issue in a way that puts it in a negative light (reference to
criminals, paedophiles and politicians wanting material deleted). I think it
would be useful to wait and see a little bit longer how decisions are being
dealt with. Requests so far are being put in a queue and it’s unclear when (or
how) in fact they will be dealt with.
It’s well established in law that something that’s of interest to the public is
not necessarily in the public interest in the legal sense.
While free speech is paramount under the U.S. Constitution the debate will
happen in the U.S. too. In fact it has already begun, as their youth are quite
obviously seriously affected by the “never-forgotten” problem too. Search
engines are likely to become even more efficient and all encompassing in the
future, so something will have to be done in the U.S. too in order to protect