There has been much debate whether search engine operators are responsible for sifting through personal information on web pages published by various web sites, for example, on this website. Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that even though operators like Google simply index and display results from their crawlers, because it discloses and makes the information available in lists, that they should clean up personal data.
Following the “right to be forgotten” ruling in May, EU citizens were allowed to request that any information they found to be inaccurate, irrelevant, or excessive be taken down from search and “non-media websites.” The appeals have come rolling in upwards of 91,000 individual requests, with more than 328,000 single URLs as the subjects of dispute. Google has apparently taken down 50 percent of the link requests, but has also rejected upwards of 30 percent.
While this ruling has only applied in Europe, its impact is certainly felt globally. Have we come to an age where the courts have the ability to truly police the Internet? While there haven’t been legislations, in this scenario it appears we may be slowly headed in that direction. It is well known that Google gathers personal information to benefit its advertisers. It is also known that we as human beings have a right to know everything, but based on this ruling, we won’t know all.
It should be debated whether it’s the job of search engines to police the Internet, or if the courts need to update civilian’s abilities to take action upon individual websites. If there is some embarrassing photo, quote, or video out there, then take it up with the website and the courts. While Google does make a profit, it does appear to be unreasonable that a corporation becomes the judge as to what information should be readily available. It has even been suggested that removing so many links could have an impact on the wealth of public knowledge we have accumulated over the years.