right to be forgotten by cobsgroup and oyetola oyewumi

Right to Be Forgotten Examined in Practice

The Right to be forgotten is a hot topic at the moment and has spurred on a few emails and talking points, so as promised here is my view on this topic.

Remember the Date.
13th May 2014 the day the European Court effectively caused a ripple in the status quo of the internet and the digital world. It was the day the ruling on the Right to be Forgotten Ruling was made.

There have been a lot of academics on both sides of the coin: the privacy advocates ,the freedom of expression advocates and anti censorship communities.

First Case Summary

Lets take a look at the case in summary (this is important as you will see in the end) a man had something he didn't like on the internet he went through the various levels of the courts and got to a court where he got a favourable result, THE END.

This favourable result came as a surprise and a shock (back in August 2013 Eu Courts ruled in Googles Favour ) to a lot of people and to Google it has created a huge headache on implementation. However, Google is working on an automated tool that will enable you to make requests.

The Centrepiece of the issue.
Now the main issues here that will seem to be  the deciding factors are : whether the subject matter of the information requested for removal is in the public interest which then leads into whether the  right to know outweighs the right to be forgotten . This is where things get interesting as it is a case of the person asking themselves is it in the public interest to know about this.

I was at an event 'this one time' held at Manchester  Met University, and I think it was called State of the Internet or something similar, as usual there is a Q&A session at the end and one of the Questions asked was on the subject of privacy and big data collection and how it affects peoples lives . Someone then said something (I think it was a general comment from the crowd) which was along the lines of what could someone have to hide that is soooo bad (Please note I am paraphrasing a bit).  (I wish I had recorded that event as it could have made for a really interesting backdrop)

So What could People Possibly Have to Hide that is Soooo bad and then Do I want to Know?

If we are to look at the ruling there is no guidance to it, so the above question will only be answered by the cases as each one builds on a case by case basis.

Now from my personal opinion I think the good thing with this ruling applies is in a case such as this first one:

Case 1
Subject :A student has been tagged in  'embarrassing uni pics' and is now ready to start their professional career.

Do I have a right to know they had a fun time at uni?
Well perhaps if I was back in A levels and was thinking of where to go (though I am more of a library man myself) but is it in the public interest ?

Public Interest Test
In my opinion I doubt it, so  yes lets grant their request and have this picture not coming up.

PRO TIP :For any students reading this what you should do especially if this is facebook is to change your settings so you have to approve any pictures you are tagged in first . Another option is to first untag yourself  from those embarrassing pics, set up your smartphone to take a burst of pics while in the library(be creative add books, selfies of books) upload them to your facebook album entitled day 1 of library  tag yourself and your friends in the pics everyone will like and share organically in no time the pics that show up first for you when googled should go from your moon walking in a onesie antics to  #librarylife.

Also it is possible to disallow Facebook from sharing your information with Search Engines in your privacy settings.

cobs group facebook settings


Case 2
Subject:  A negative review of a legal or medical professional and a restaurant .

Public Interest Test:
Solicitors from Hell springs to mind here, would it be in the interest of the public to know what one customer thinks of their solicitor or surgeon if something went horribly wrong, hmmm this is tricky as it's not exactly black and white. Do either of these have genuine good reviews to counteract , are there more negative reviews of the same showing a pattern  would general members of the public want to know in these cases probably yes they would in order to ensure potential new clients knew before hand about other peoples experiences.

What about in the case of the restaurant well I would say yes this is in the public interest to know if your staff are rude but is it just one person who said they are rude out of 500 or 300 out of 400 ? Again yes I would say it is in the public interest to know and make an informed decision but the severity /swaying power between where to eat and which doctor or solicitor to use varies here and it is interesting to see how will this be handled. As an automated algorithm wouldn't be  able to make this distinction as I think it would mean a need for a human element so at least this ruling could help create jobs then.

Case 3

Subject: Keeping With the Celebrities

Do I have a right to Know?: The general response here is probably :they are celebs, they are in the public eye, so people will want to know. From the celebs point of view:  ''mind your own business and respect my right to privacy.''

Public Interest Test:
Its safe to say when it comes to celebrities most people ''Always want to Know'', but are some things more private than others ? What does this mean for the Kiss and Tellers? What about bias what if the person making the decision is biased against a certain celeb or perhaps they play for a rival team?

Ofcoure there is the journalism exemption where certain headlines might get the exemption but WAIT!!! If it becomes a journalistic exemption scenario does that mean the journalist can then run a story of how the celebrity tried to exercise the right to be forgotten and then what if other outlets then carry that story ?  Does that mean the celebrity then has to go after each one individually ?

As I write this I must say Case 3 has certainly posed more questions than answers, sadly I haven't yet made it to celeb status to be able to answer these questions myself.

The Streisland Effect

What is it : The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. Read more about the Streisland Effect here

One thing I do know is the Streisland Effect is likely to raise its head in a lot of celebrity cases and even in normal everyday people if it makes a good story, don't forget Social Media and its ability to galvanize a movement particularly if its something where people believe strongly on a case or issue or strongly disapprove of an individuals behavior or actions.

Cyberbullying and the Ruling

If you ask me, where I think there should be a ruling of a right to something on the internet is against cyber bullies. The right to remove them instantly from your social networking sites is probably a right that will be welcomed by all with open arms and a 'Hero's' parade.

The above are probably some of the more somewhat pleasant cases and don't even  begin the scratching of the surface, there are a lot more tougher cases where criminal activity, Political inquest, child abuse and more .

Did the Streisland Effect Happen in this Case
 Second Case Summary

Remember earlier when I was talking about the case in very brief summary? Well lets look at the detail the case involved Mr Costeja González and what he wanted to remove, now he has successfully exercised his right to be forgotten. But when we now search for him and see that he has exercised his right to have the information removed , we know what he wanted remove and that he has exercised it . Isn't this counter intuitive as now the results that come up are that he had something he wanted to remove and we know what it was but now we also so know he had it removed so essentially isn't he still in the same position even though its now from a different angle?