Data Privacy and Security

Google: Censorship vs. Privacy - 50% Each Way

The European Court of Justice’s Tuesday ruling [pdf] that an individual can demand that "irrelevant or outdated" information be deleted from search results has caused an uproar round the net. Yesterday Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales told 5 Live it was: "one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen".

The judges who made the decision, however, stated that the objective was “protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons”. In other words, potentially infringed privacy is more important than the ability of the public to access all available information.

Google itself has lobbied against this since it went public in 2012, and described the decision as a disappointment.

There are two clear sides to this debate: the need for privacy vs. the need for freedom of speech. Both these topics are extremely emotive. And both have the potential to be abused by interested parties. Once you start to break this down it becomes an extremely thorny moral issue.

Do we trust other people who want to remove content from web searches? No. But if we were, ourselves, defamed online, would be want that content removed? Yes.

In a recent piece of research we conducted around online identities, half of those individuals we spoke to said they would like to remove “irrelevant or damaging” content from web searches. Maybe the answer would have been different if the survey had been framed round censorship?




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