Right To Be Forgotten? Probably A Pipedream? Best Assume You Are Being Watched 24-7?
The papers and other media were full of chat about “The Right to be Forgotten” a while ago.
I put in my tuppence-worth at the time here -Link Here-
The issue with the “Right to be Forgotten” is whether it is right and proper for a search engine – Let’s say Google – to be as good as it presently is at remembering everything. Forgetting nothing.
We might read in a Newspaper or see on the television a report about someone being arrested and fined at maybe age 19 for trying to travel on the train without a ticket by using someone else’s ticket. A fraud yes, a crime. But in England the State has decided that after a while – how long a while depends upon the sentence imposed – this person should be allowed to put it behind them and get on with life. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights allow such matters be deemed “spent”.
So twenty years later our now 39 year-old can expect to be allowed to apply for (most) jobs, or apply for an insurance policy, or to open a Bank account, without making any mention of the train business.
Fine, and what is not needed at all, is Google shouting – “Yebbut what about the train fare dodging.”
Because no-one goes to the library to try to find a random newspaper to see if there is any mention of their job candidate. There is no real convenient mechanism for doing that. Therefore in the world in the last century, stuff got forgotten and that, in the matter of rehabilitation, is the way we liked it.
Yes, there are professional clippings search agencies but for most people they aren’t really on the radar.
Nowadays though Google:- Fred applies for a job, does really well at the interview and the boss decides to appoint him.
But as everyone does nowadays the Boss thinks – let’s get the phone out for a quick Google search of his name.
Blimey! He doesn’t buy his own train tickets he’s a wrong un.
Here is a recently reported case with a twist. –Link Here-
It was brought against Google by a person who identified himself only as ABC. He had been convicted in 2014 of wrongdoing, and presumably the court did not deal with him harshly because by 2016 the offence was “Spent”
ABC is now in business as an investment facilitator, raising equity for new ventures. If he is to have success he is very reliant upon being trusted with money.
And his complaint is that his potential investors are being deterred from trusting him because when they Google his name (as you would, wouldn’t you, before handing over any proportion of your life savings) they are confronted with screens full of reports of his offending. Which is “Spent”.
But of course might as well not be spent if Google won’t stop remembering it.
The Twist I mentioned is that ABC seems to be well aware of the “Streisand Effect” -Link here-
Basically the effect is that human nature is to be inquisitive. Nosy. Prurient. So ABC knows that if he goes to Court to stop Google doing things, his court case itself now becomes new “news”, which will therefore be reported and turn up on Google links to his name.
And if his Court case is news, and people see that Fred Smith is trying to stop Google giving details of his naughty past, then unlimited numbers of people are going to go on Google to see what his secret actually is.
And all the cases of this kind show up anyway on a website run by Google, called Lumen, which keeps a record of all of the “takedown requests” made to Google.
So the effect of seeking anonymity and to be “forgotten” is more often than not, to have the internet bathe you and your history with a brighter searchlight.
In ABC’s case the Court had confirmed to him that his personal identity need not be shown on the Court papers and records. No doubt he wondered – “how are they going to do that? I can’t win my case without disclosing the details of what I am complaining about, and I do not trust that all of the details will be kept secret.”
So he has refused to identify himself to the Court at all.
And eventually, the Court has told him to get lost.
I can sympathise with the Court, which has rules to follow, with ABC who I can see has good reason to seek to hide his identity, and with Google, which has a right to know who is suing them.
The fact of the matter is that the youthful discretions which are now skeletons in the cupboards of many respectable older people whether shoplifting, cannabis, or driving a pal’s car without insurance because you couldn’t afford it as a feckless teenager, or even a regrettable haircut, have generally successfully been forgotten.
But for the current generation of youngsters, the chances are that this is no longer possible, and perhaps very able people who could have gone on to be eminent – lawyers, surgeons whatever, will never be allowed to put teenage stupidity behind them. Probably the right to be forgotten will be a pipedream.
So be good, boys and girls. These days, it’s certainly not only Santa who is watching your every move.
A fine song here –Never forget you-
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