California-based journalist Darwin BondGraham tweeted a document he had obtained under the state’s public records act. It showed an email exchange between an employee and a customer of the law enforcement contractor, PredPol. Shortly afterwards, the employee responded on Twitter by asking BondGraham not to publish personal information publicly. The request apparently referred to the fact that the office phone number was visible in the emails. After BondGraham refused to remove the Tweet, he received a notification from Twitter that his account had been suspended.
Google has agreed to about 40 percent of the requested URL removals that it has received in the months since the European Union's Court of Justice issued its ruling that empowered citizens of the EU to have search results unlinked from their names online.
Google doesn't delete any content from its search records archives completely. It simply breaks the links between searches on an individual's name and the offending results. That gives complainants the opportunity to use Google to shape their online identity while leaving the content behind those search results intact. According to the new data, Google has removed some 227,000 of those connections since it began, reluctantly, enforcing the ruling.
Google has acted as judge, jury and executioner in the wake of Europe’s right to be forgotten ruling. But what does society lose when a private corporation rules public information?
Nine months after the European ruling, it is clear that Google’s implementation has been fast, idiosyncratic, and allowed the company to shape interpretation to its own ends, as well as to gain an advantage on competitors and regulators forced into reactive mode. It avoided a broader and much deeper reflection on digital public space, information sedimentation, and the exploration of collaborative solutions between public and private actors – such as a joint request service across different search engines, with processes for getting confidential advice from publishers and public officials.
On April 24, 2014, Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, signed Marco Civil Da Internet, a civil-rights based framework for the Internet which Brazilian activists have long fought. Dubbed the “Internet Constitution,” the law seeks to reinforce the protection of fundamental freedoms in the digital age. One of the most damaging concessions, fiercely opposed by digital rights activists, was a data retention mandate that compels the collection and storage of connections logs of any innocent individual.
Brazil is now in the midst of rolling out the Marco Civil’s secondary legislation, together with a comprehensive data protection law that will heavily influence how online companies and governments can treat personal data in the country. The Ministry of Justice has announced a public online consultation over these two pieces of legislation in the style of the Marco Civil’s process, where all the stakeholders can contribute to the development of the bills. These results of these consultations will determine how Marco Civil is enforced in practice.