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Is EU's 'right to be forgotten' really the 'right to edit the truth'?

May 14, 2014 04:04 PM ET

The EU ruling might be a relief for people who want to wipe away easy access to photos of them appearing drunk, stories about a college-age arrest or an old lawsuit filed against them.

However, it also means anyone doing a search on someone might not get the full story.

"One of the individual cases that prompted this ruling concerns a doctor who didn't want an old malpractice suit coming up in search results about him," said Olds. "Speaking for myself, I'd like to see if my doctor has had malpractice problems in the past, and am not wild about my doctor being able to delete this info from the Web. Now the info might be available someplace else, but if it's not shown on the major search engines, then I most likely won't see it."

Khatibloo noted that the EU didn't offer enough specifics about what is relevant and what can or cannot be deleted, which will raise some legal problems.

"It's all left open to interpretation," she said. "They're basically tying Google and other search engines up in court for God knows how long."

The EU's ruling also may spur some to take Internet searches into their own hands.

"It seems to me this is opening up the door to more darknet stuff," said Khatibloo. "We'll start to see browsers that show those hidden search results. They won't be a Google. They won't be a Yahoo. They'll be some entity that takes these archives and finds stuff that others hide. We're opening up the door to vigilantes to Internet truthiness."

Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC, said he has some concerns about the ruling's effect on the quality of information that can be found on the Internet, but he's not too concerned.

"That people can edit their own kind of histories? It doesn't bother me," he said. "You can do that now in different ways in different platforms, like pulling pictures off your Facebook account. It's not all that strange that you can pull other data down about you."

It's also a ruling that shouldn't cost Google, or other search engines, any revenue but will cost them countless headaches and administrative work.

"Google will have to build out some administrative capabilities in order to deal with the various deletion requests they're sure to start getting from EU citizens," Olds said. "This is a very slippery slope and sets a bad precedent. And they should brace themselves because privacy advocates in the U.S. will lobby for the same type of regulations here."

This article, Is EU's 'right to be forgotten' really the 'right to edit the truth'?, was originally published at

covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter @sgaudin, on or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her email address is

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