The right to be forgotten by Google has already been criticized by free speech advocates who believe that the rule is a form of censorship; publications that don’t want their stories to disappear; and a perpetual outrage machine that hates the law because everything looks like something to bitch about when your only tools are a keyboard and too much time on your hands. Now the law has a new critic, and this one is more dangerous to its existence than those journalists and haters.
“There is no right given by the judgment for people to have their personal data deleted from the search engine results. There is no unfettered right,” the United Kingdom’s justice minister, Simon Hughes, said today. “There is no right to be forgotten. Not in the law of the UK, not in directives, not in the judgments of the court.” Besides that stance on the law’s veracity, Hughes also believes that the law is unenforceable and must be changed, according to the Guardian.
That’s going to be news to Google, which has already started removing links from its search results; British publications whose stories have been removed from Google because of the law; and the people said to be asking for the removal of more than 1,000 links every single day. But that’s not the worrisome part of Hughes’ argument — that honor belongs to his contention that companies like Google will not be able to remove links from their search results without issues:
It looks to me as if it may be an unmanageable task. It will be a phenomenal task. It’s not technically possible to remove all traces of data loaded on to the internet from other sources. You can’t exercise the right to be forgotten. The information system could not be made to do it.
If that’s not a deliberate misrepresentation of what the right to be forgotten law truly entails, it’s a dangerous misunderstanding of what the law does and doesn’t allow. (Hughes made a similar error when he said that the rule might allow people to scrub criminal histories from the search results.) This isn’t about removing these pages from the Internet, it’s about making them harder to find, and that requires the removal of links to those pages from search engines.
The idea that Google is unable to remove links from its search results is preposterous. It has done just that for years in order to comply with government requests, copyright complaints, and other problems. Hughes is effectively arguing that Google’s spiders, which have built an intricate web of information, are unable to remove a few strands from that sticky mess of data. Spider webs are stronger than they look, but surely they aren’t strong enough to resist the law.
[gif by Brad Jonas for Pando]