Too good to be forgotten?

As a former library worker and a Chartered Librarian, I find the ‘right to be forgotten’ judgements interesting, to say the least.

Whenever we hear about them – or read about them – they tend to be referring to the removal of search results in Google. The inference being that if Google can’t find you, no-one can.

Perhaps it’s because of my library experience, but Google isn’t my first stopping-off point if I’m searching for someone or something. Nor are Bing, Ask, etc. But then, we’re not so much talking about finding people and what they do, as finding out what people may have done in the past.

In the UK we have the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act – you’ll have seen reference to it when applying for jobs, for example. Any prior conviction classed as ‘spent’ under the terms of the Act do not need to be included, but that doesn’t mean no-one can find out about them. Even if you pull the search results from Google, etc., that conviction might have been covered in an online article on a news website. If you’ve ever been Gazetted, you’ll know what I mean.

And even if you pull out all online references, what about microfilm and microfiche stores from printed newspapers? Does the right to be forgotten extend to doctoring these somehow, without affecting any other information on them? Does it extend to the photographs I have that I’m holding back for a rainy day1?

I’m not advocating for or against the right to be forgotten. And clearly there are differences between a minor crime as a juvenile, being the victim or perpetrator of ‘revenge porn’. It does sometimes feel though that the subtleties and nuances of legal judgements are missing from such a blanket approach. A case of the rush to legislate, not for the first time, producing ‘bad’ law?

  1. I have no such photos. I was trying to make a point. []

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