13th May 2014 the European Court effectively deleted the common held view that if it is on the net, it is there for life with its Right to be Forgotten Ruling.
There has been much argument in the Press: the privacy advocates, the freedom of expression advocates and anti-censorship communities.
This recent favourable result for privacy came as a surprise and a shock to a lot of people and to Google where it has created a huge headache of implementation. However, Google is working on an automated tool that will enable you to make requests.
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?
The EU Courts have given no examples of what is in the public interest, so it will be for the English Courts to decide cases on individual facts.
So, would an interesting picture taken at a university event be classed Public Interest? It certainly may be of interest to a prospective employer or even a spouse. But it is doubtful that an individual’s Human Rights would fail to take priority.
For any students reading this what you should do, especially with Facebook, is to change your settings so you have to approve any pictures you are tagged in.
Also it is now possible to disallow Facebook from sharing your information with Search Engines in your privacy settings.
For business clients, a negative review of a legal or medical professional or a restaurant could ruin years of top class trading. 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? Do these have genuine good reviews to balance; are there more negative reviews of the same showing a pattern; would general members of the public want to know in these cases?
Probably the Court would uphold the review publications in order to ensure potential new clients knew beforehand about other people’s experiences. This will probably also apply with e.g. a restaurant or a hotel.
What about celebrities? The general response here is probably that they are celebs, they are in the public eye, so people will want to know. It is 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?
The Courts will have to balance the true Journalist news story with the Right to Privacy. Something the English Courts have had much experience with. However, even the Judges are struggling with the overwhelming freedom of information propagated by Social Media.
If you ask me, where I think there should be a ruling of a right to something on the Web is against cyber bullies. The right to remove them instantly from your social networking sites is probably a right that will be welcomed.
The above are probably some of the more somewhat pleasant cases and don’t even begin scratching the surface; there are a lot tougher cases where criminal activity, Political inquest, child abuse and more are involved.
Remember, even if the offending information is removed by Court Order, the facts and the decision to remove it would still remain accessible on the Internet. So it may have all been a fruitless exercise in shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Or put another way – just don’t do it!