Earlier this week, I put a piece on this site about my relative – a grandmother – who took happy snaps of her grandkids. Five smiling cheeky faces. A delight.
She sent them around on Facebook. Happy days indeed. What she didn’t know was that they had been grabbed by Google Images and when you typed in her name, up came those happy faces. She had no control over her family life and the right to privacy.
I guess cases like this one will come within the remit of the order from the European Court of Justice to provide a means to have your history edited out of the Google world (and others I would think). I still am not sure. But in essence, surely, democracy includes the right to control your own life, your own history, you own thoughts. Your own pictures.
Admittedly, Google did back down a bit. But not enough.There are caveats and loopholes.
There are three contested angles to this move which, by the way, has already resulted in 20,000 requests to file for removal.
One is that the gatekeeper for all these ‘forget requests’ will be Google itself. The web giant will be judge and jury. It will decide whose past can be wiped and whose life remains on line. What criteria will it use? Who has picked the people who will choose? Critics have rightly said that a celebrity will have more clout that an average citizen. But if that is the case, what if ‘an average citizen’ with little clout becomes famous in five, ten, fifteen years’ time? How will it judge the future?
Secondly, according to reports, even though search engines will be subject to law, it is only the links to articles that will be chopped out.The ruling lets the original article in question remain.
Finally, and this is important, a person’s history will be wiped on their local web link. So Google.co.uk or Google.esp (for Spain, let’s say) will follow the letter of the law because it is in Europe. But guess what? Since Google.com – the big mamma in all this – is in the States, the images, the bad facts, the comments linked with you will stay.
In that previous article that I cited at the top of this piece, I alluded to a black satire called The Circle by author David Eggers. One of his characters in the novel warns: “..If you control the flow of information, you can control everything.”
Google and its industry henchmen will not give a real inch when it comes to control. That’s how they make money. That’s how they stay in business. And guess who suffers? You and me.