The media in general and online editors in particular are not necessarily the bad guys here, far from it, they mostly just stick to their journalistic ethos... A possible solution could be that, after a set number of years, the article would either de-index itself or anonymise the individuals it cites. Some kind of "digital rehabilitation act" if you will, or a self-triggered right to be forgotten.
On Thursday October 23rd the Cambridge Union Society hosted a debate sponsored by Mendeley about the right to be forgotten online, and voted to oppose the motion. Gabriel Hughes, VP of Analytics at Elsevier and a former executive at Google, outlines his own stance in opposition and reflects on the overall debate.
The 'right to be forgotten' law is now in full swing. Google has removed more than 60,000 web links and some days it seems like every search you do has the italicised warning at the bottom of the page: Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more. Strange wording isn't it? Let's face it - some results have been removed, Google, or the italics of doom would not be there.
It dwells on me as I stare at the Internet version of myself, I don't want to delete my past entirely... People change. People can be more than one thing. We all deserve 'the right to be forgotten' not to censor our mistakes, so our Google personas don't solely dictate who we are. I guess writing about reinvention is the easy part; it's fighting for it in reality that's the challenge.
The High Court has ruled the pictures illegal. Google refuses to take straightforward technical measures to stop them being displayed on its search engine. In a society with respect for the rule of law, that is clearly wrong. The point is a straightforward one: should Google be allowed to refuse to take measures to stop illegal images being displayed? Or should they have to respect the law and the courts as is the norm in all civilised societies? I believe that it's time for Google to learn that with great power and wealth comes great responsibility, not immunity from the rule of law.
The "right to be forgotten" could be seen as a potential coup for brands and consumers who wish to rid themselves of those old, embarrassing search links once and for all... Instead of being asked in the fine print if we wish to opt out, the marketing industry may need to get used to the idea of politely asking consumers to opt in.
Clearly we as society, policymakers and website service providers need to consider how we can do more to ensure less people become victims of online abuse, commit suicide, have "bad internet experiences," are forced to move from school to school, home to home, and are even afraid to use the internet.
By all means use the internet as a source of seemingly positive information to give you a larger potential pool of applicants or members. However, as a source of negative information which you cannot or will not confirm or be able to check directly with the person concerned it should be a no no in all but the most obvious cases.