The right to be forgotten can be perceived both as a privilege and as a right. If we lay our thoughts deeper into the matter, we could conclude that the scale weighs more into the “human right” direction and Google is basically obliged to delete all the irrelevant, inappropriate or very old information about a certain person, concept or entity that can be affected by the little leaks clinging to the search results like a virus strain meant to make us vulnerable in front of the judgmental, sneaky and manipulative forces of the internet.
Google first started to process right to be forgotten requests in May 2014, as a result of a ruling by the European Court of Justice. According to the regulation,Google needs to asses, process and act upon requests coming from people who want part of their personal information completely deleted from the claws of Google Search.
The right to be forgotten stirred controversy among public figures and ordinary people altogether, as Google did not unveil some relevant selection criteria when it comes to the decision to delete or keep certain pieces of personal information exposed to the public eye. Selection criteria is uncertain and it’s hard not to be so, as everything is contextualized and relative and apart from some basic guidelines, decisions are most of the times subjective.
Recently, The Guardian has discovered unrevealed data in source code on Google’s own transparency report. The data indicates the scale and profile of the types of requests being sent and dealt with by Google. This type of information has never been made public, as Google tries to keep its inner workings away from the raised eyebrows of spectators. The data recently discovered covers more than three quarters of all requests to date.
Although one may think that most of right to be forgotten requests come from criminals, politicians, public figures or controversial people, less than 5% of the total number of RTBF subscriptions come from high profile public figures. More than 95% of requests come from everyday members of the public.
The amount of data discovered covers more than three quarters of all requests to the present moment. There are more than 280.000 files concerning RTBF matters, with more than half of them concerning simple citizens.
Previously, a high level of emphasis has been laid upon selective information related to sensational examples of the right to be forgotten requests released by Google and publicly reported by some of the media. On the other hand, the large majority of requests coming from common people have been ignored. Google enters the realm of controversial equity, when it comes to the “special” selection of requests it processes.
An analysis of archived versions of Google’s transparency report has revealed the insight which is made public for the first time since the ruling became active. It details the numeric breakdown of all requests and associated links by country and issue type. The underlying source code has since been updated to remove these details, according to The Guardian.
The great majority of requests, namely more than 95% come from regular citizens who want to keep their private information private. In France and Germany, among other countries, the number of complaints related to personal information hovered above 95%.
On a common basis, Google grants no more than half of the total amount of requests it processes.
In its defense, Google noted in a recent statement: “We’ve always aimed to be as transparent as possible about our right to be forgotten decisions. The data the Guardian found in our Transparency Report’s source code does of course come from Google, but it was part of a test to figure out how we could best categorise requests. We discontinued that test in March because the data was not reliable enough for publication. We are however currently working on ways to improve our transparency reporting.”
All in all, as an increasing number of countries start to adopt RTBF laws, a higher level of transparency from Google is needed and a much better, efficient and equitable level of management when it comes to the type and flavor of RTBF requests it receives.
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