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A ruling by Europe’s top court that individuals have a right to require Google to remove sensitive information from search results is unlikely to apply in the USA, according to a number of commentators quoted in an Associated Press piece.

But across the Atlantic, the idea that users should be able to edit Google search results in the name of privacy is being slammed as weird and difficult to enforce at best and a crackdown on free speech at worst …

The European ruling found that individuals had a right to ask Google to remove links to sensitive information which was “outdated or irrelevant,” even when accurate. Individuals ranging from politicians to sex offenders wasted no time in submitting removal requests, and Google described the court’s decision as “disappointing” and said that it “went too far.”

Some commentators believe the ruling is almost impossible to enforce, even in Europe.

There will be serious technological challenges, said U.S. privacy attorney David Keating in Atlanta.

“It seems aspirational, not a reality, to comply with such a standard,” he said. “The reengineering necessary to implement the right to be forgotten is significant.”

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales believes the attempt will eventually be abandoned and the law changed.

[The ruling is] a “technologically incompetent violation of human rights.” He said it amounts to censorship, and he predicted it will ultimately be scrapped.

Joel Reidenberg, visiting professor of information technology policy at Princeton University, said that it reflected differences in culture between Europe and the USA.

“In Europe, there is a sense that privacy and control over personal data are basic human rights,” he said. In America, freedom of speech and free-market solutions tend to prevail, he said.

Quote of the piece, though, was from Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Americans will find their searches bowdlerized by prissy European sensibilities. We’ll be the big losers. The big winners will be French ministers who want the right to have their last mistress forgotten.

(Via Gizmodo)

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