More on the right to be forgotten

Gina Tosas, a journalist at Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia, called me a couple of days ago to discuss the controversy surrounding the European Court of Justice’s controversial decision upholding the absurdly dubbed “right to be forgotten”, a supposed human right that not only runs counter to how human physiology works, but also to the functioning of the internet. She published a few of my comments in an article in Spanish on June 12 called The right to forget sparks controversy (pdf in Spanish).

Following the court’s ruling, which in my non-legal expert opinion has produced a final ruling that was not preceded by any public debate, Google has proposed its technical solution, while tens of thousands of people have sought to have all kinds of results removed from the search engine for all kinds of reasons, along with the following novelty: after some speculation, we knew that the search engine would insert a warning at the bottom of its pages highlighting the fact that some of the results of the search have been eliminated on the grounds of “the right to be forgotten”, in the same way that it warns that it has been obliged to eliminate results for copyright reasons.

Google’s decision in large part reduces the impact of the supposed “right to be forgotten”, and the warning can be translated as “keep on searching” with the added bonus that “you might find something really juicy”: in other words, when you are looking for somebody and you see the stigmatic footnote, you will have all the more reason to continue searching by using a VPN in the United States or any other country not affected by the censorship.

In many cases, it is likely that the outcome of asking to be forgotten will be the opposite. Mario Costeja must be overjoyed: we can no longer see the news item in La Vanguardia showing that his house was put up for auction; instead we see a footnote warning that the result, on the basis of the search algorithm should be there, and we could use a VPN to access it if we wanted. This is what happens when legislation that goes against technology and common sense is forced through.

It says a lot about the health of the internet that we are increasingly being obliged to use a VPN to find out what is going on.

(En español, aquí)