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.
In the first 18 sentences of its decision, the Spanish Audiencia Nacional court has endorsed, without any changes, the European ruling on the so called 'Right to be forgotten' on the Internet. Citizens can demand search engines, Google in this case, the removal of personal information from URLs if they consider it harmful, assuming accessing these links can not be justified neither on public interest grounds nor because of the public relevance of the affected individual.