Well, isn´t this a proper mess!
The EU Court ordered Google in a ruling in May to remove links to information on the net that people find “outdated, irrelevant or no longer relevant.”
The case in question was about a Spanish lawyer who didn´t want info popping up on the Internet on his house having been repossessed a few years earlier.
He felt it harmed him in his new career.
Google was confused.
Do people actually have this “right to be forgotten” that the EU legislators have been going on about but never managed to get put down properly in a law?
Google swiftly removed the links in question and some others upon request, for example to a number of articles in the Guardian. But then Google had to put them back after protests from the Guardian.
“The ‘right to be forgotten’ will be abused to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest,” journalist Robert Peston of the BBC wrote in a blogpost.
´The court has gone too far´, says Eric Schmidt, head of Google, ´it has struck the balance between the right to know and the right to be forgotten, wrong.´
What this makes for, concludes an editorial of the Financial Times, is a flawed privacy ruling.
No, it does not, FT (and the rest of you).
What this makes for, is a flawed privacy legislation.
The court can not give exact directions as to what links to remove and which one to let stand.
That´s not its place.
What the court can do, and has done, on the other hand, is to point out that EU citizens have a right to privacy.
Since it seemed everybody had forgotten that.
Google wasn´t bothered about that before the ruling. After the ruling, they have to be. They´re not sure what links to remove and which ones to delete? Well, that´s the legislators job to tell them.
And the legislators have done a lousy job. For the longest of time, they have not bothered either, with our right to privacy.
They´ve let Google, Facebook and everybody else run riot with our personal information.
The current rules in the matter date from 1995 – the stone age as far as IT is concerned.
The European Commission made a proposal for updated rules in January 2012. Lobbying against this has been unprecedented in its intensity and its aggressivity, not least from the US government.
So much that the proposal was watered down before it was even presented to the European legislators.
The European Parliament concluded their position on the proposal in October last year, needless to say, also under heavy lobbying.
We´re still waiting for the EU government to do their part of the work.
It´s no secret why they´ve let this one slide.
The European Parliament has been up in arms over protecting peoples´ privacy. The revelations of Edward Snowden on how the US and their global companies spy on all of us, really got the EP going.
They wanted to put an end to it… or at least put some obstacles in the way.
The EU governments on the other hand, weren´t to bothered. Many of them, it turned out, was more or less aware of the spying (but probably not the magnitude of it…surely, not?)
Yet others were even helping out (the Swedish government and the British government among others).
Even the French government, which you can usually rely on not to let the US have its own way all together, appears to have fallen under the charms of Google and Facebook.
The calculation in the Council of Ministers seems to have been: If we drag this thing out, a new Parliament will be elected and with some luck – and time passing which always helps – the new MEPs won´t be so obstinate in defending that o-so-holy privacy.
Of course, the European Court has now thwarted that bit of scheming, reminding everyone that citizens do have rights.
Not a flawed ruling, at all.
Quite the opposite.
It forces the hand of the EU government as well as the new Parliament: Legislate properly or leave Google and Co in a real mess.