Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Who Controls Your Search?



It all starts with The Right to be Forgotten (RTBF).  Do you know the RTBF?  You really should. It may soon change the Internet.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name gave links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home. As a result, Internet companies in Europe can be made to remove irrelevant or excessive personal information from search engine results regardless of what is true or actually appears on the Internet.

RTBF is one of those ideas that starts out sounding good in principle, but turns bad in practice.  
  
The content which search engines are forced to delist is still on the Internet. It is potentially listed in other search engines, just absent from Google. RTBF does not compel the website where the content actually resides to remove the source of the problem. The users whose information is posted are the ones who specify what is to come down. There is a review panel, but there are no published rules on what will and won’t be removed. RTBF only applies to individuals, not ethnic, religious or social groups. Lastly, RTBF is a regional law; it impacts search engine listings in countries where that law prevails. 

 In a borderless medium like the Internet, RTBF is unenforceable. It became law anyway. 

Internet Extraterritoriality

It didn't take long for people and governments to figure out that RTBF was easily circumvented.  If you live in a RTBF country, you can use a proxy to access a search engine from a non-RTBF country.  All the content delisted under RTFB is then visible. The ultimate weakness of such a law is revealed.  

France has now demanded that Google apply RTBF removal to a global level.  Follow that? France wants an EU law to determine what you can find on Google in the US. 

Google has declined to comply. 

A showdown is in the making.  France has threatened legal action and sanctions.  Remember that France and other countries have the ability to block Google, search engine and all.  A very potent weapon. 

If France wins, the Internet loses and so do we.  

If France loses – well,  let’s wait and see.

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