‘Google must not be left to censor history’

The power to “censor history” should not be left in Google’s hands, Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales warned, after the search engine giant revealed it had approved over 90,000 so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ requests.

Wales said a European Court ruling allowing people to have links scrubbed from the search engine’s index was “open-ended.” He further slammed the law for being unclear.

“The law as it stands right now is quite confusing. We have this one ruling of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) which is very open-ended and very hard to interpret,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

In May, the ECJ said links to irrelevant and outdated data should be erased from searches on request, sparking fears that news stories and other public information could be concealed from public view.

On Friday, it was revealed that half of all ‘right to be forgotten’ requests had been granted. So far, the internet giant has received requests from 91,000 individuals to block search results for 328,000 websites.

“There is a significant, difficult and philosophical question (to be answered) around the balance between privacy and free speech,” Wales told International Business Times UK at the time of the ruling. “I think what this decision highlights is that we’ve got (that balance) all wrong.”

Wales said the biggest problem was that the law as it stands directs Google to censor links to information “that is clearly public” from reputable news sources.

“That is a very dangerous path to go down, and if we want to go down a path where we are going to be censoring history, there is no way we should leave a private company like Google in charge of making those decisions.”

Wales pointed towards the manner in which data was defined as personal data under current European law, which opened a big philosophical can of worms, noting that the marital status of leaders falls under the umbrella of personal information. He argues that personal information in this instance has been confused with private information, including personal health and financial information, which in fact should remain outside the public domain.

“That’s a completely different category,” he said.

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.