Digital life reporter Katie Humphrey covers all things Internet and culture, from apps and social media to goofy memes and studies proclaiming tech will doom/save us all. Chat with her on Twitter: @HumphreyKatie.

European court rules people have "right to be forgotten" online

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: May 13, 2014 - 5:20 PM

Google your name.

See something you don't like? The European Union Court of Justice says individuals should have the right to have offending links removed.

Business Week outlines the ruling, which affects European Union citizens and all search engines in Europe, and is sure to cause headaches for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's Bing and other such companies.

Google officials told Business Week that it was disappointed and studying the implications of the ruling.

The court decision stems from a complaint by Mario Costeja Gonzalez, a Spanish man who objected when a Google search of his name turned up information from 1998 when his property was scheduled for auction to settle social security debts, according to a press release from the court.

The case is seen as the first test to the European Union concept of "the right to be forgotten," a push for more personal privacy in the digital era. The court upheld the concept, saying that Google should, upon request, remove information that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant."

Lots to think about.

The Guardian offers a bunch of stories here about the "right to be forgotten."

Over on the Washington Post's Intersect blog, Caitlin Dewey raises interesting questions about memory and the broader implications of an Internet that "forgets." She writes, in part:

"By ruling that Google had to alter its 'memories' for some, it essentially ruled that it should become less scrutable and less transparent for others. Because an individual has the 'right to be forgotten,' everyone else has a legal obligation to forget."

Harvard University Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain also offers an interesting take, too, digging into the sticky process of implementing such a ruling. For instance:

"The answer might lie in the limits of the ruling: it appears that the idea is not to remove certain indexed Web pages, such as public records, from a search engine entirely, but rather only to give people a shot at removing that which appears as a search result under their names. So a document called 'Jonathan Zittrain foreclosure of 123 Main St.' might be (if I were an EU citizen) ripe for removal as a result under 'Jonathan Zittrain,' but not under '123 Main St. foreclosure.'"

And that's just the beginning. Want to examine the ruling yourself? The full text of the court's judgement is here.

(Photo by the Associated Press.)

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