It’s time to forget the right to be forgotten
Google has won a major victory at the European Court of Justice after the tribunal ruled that the “right to be forgotten” must only be applied within Europe, highlighting the absurdity of the original ban.
What does the ECJ’s ruling limiting the “right to be forgotten”, arbitrarily imposed in 2014 mean? That five years later, it knows perfectly well that this supposed right does not exist, and that it’s a waste of time trying to impose it globally. The more than 800,000 requests to be forgotten simply created a parallel reality, one based on censorship and magical thinking, whereby things didn’t happen just because we can’t find a reference to them online. Furthermore, the criteria used to impose the right to be forgotten were impossible to define from a legal point of view.
Why should some guy called Mario Costeja enjoy the right to have a search engine erase a result referring to his house being auctioned for not paying his mortgage, while I am unable to have something removed from a newspaper because I am considered of public interest? Why am I considered “of public interest? Just because I write in the media? Who defines that? What happens if I write about the page from La Vanguardia on Monday, January 19, 1998 referring to said auction? Will my article be removed as well? And what happens if I then decide to sue Google for removing it? In US law, any clever lawyer would see the incongruities of trying to apply this kind of legislation, but for some reason, in Europe we seem to be more tolerant of such inconsistencies.
Furthermore, where does the right to be forgotten fit into a world that increasingly functions through blockchain, which is designed precisely to record everything permanently? How will the right to be forgotten work when someone asks for a transaction to be eliminated that technically cannot be eliminated? Will a judge ask someone to rebuild the blockchain with his or her bare hands and try to eliminate something that cannot be eliminated?
I said it at the time, and I say it again: there is no “right to be forgotten”: from a physiological or neurological point of view, no one can be forced to forget. Laws fail when they cannot be enforced. Privacy is a very important right that must be enshrined and protected, but there are limits. If you did…