Google Resists Broadening “Right To Be Forgotten”

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Advertisers group backs Google, privacy advocates not so much

Not surprisingly, Google is resisting a demand that it broaden the "right to be forgotten" by censoring search results worldwide, saying that allowing one country to censor the Web worldwide would start a "race to the bottom."

"We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access," global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer says,on Google's blog.

"In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place," he writes, noting that content that is legal in one country might be illegal in another. "Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be 'gay propaganda.'"

Google has been struggling with the European Union since last year's court ruling that search engines must allow Europeans to request removal of links about themselves. In June, France demanded that Google remove results from all of it results pages — even in the U.S. — rather than simply from results pages in Europe.

In the U.S., Consumer Watchdog, a California group, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission saying that Google's refusal to let Americans censor information about themselves was "unfair and deceptive."

"No legal basis"

Today, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) came to Google's defense. In a letter to the FTC, the group said the "terms suggested in the complaint are extraordinarily broad, vague and elusive and would create dangerous precedents adversely impacting numerous other U.S. companies in addition to Google."

While press organizations have remained mostly,silent — as usual worrying about the First Amendment only when it applies to them — the advertisers group argued that there is,"absolutely no legal basis, and in fact, it would be unconstitutional to allow the U.S. government to compel companies to give to these types of demands."

“Allowing ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ policies to be enforced in the U.S. would cause serious and undue harm to the public’s right to determine for itself what is important and relevant information,” said Dan Jaffe, ANA’s Group Executive Vice President for Government Relations. “Such a rule would force American companies to edit the past under the supervision of federal regulators., Consumer Watchdog’s costly, onerous censorship proposal runs contrary to consumers’ interests, and is certainly not constitutional in the U.S.”

Private matters

On the other hand, privacy advocates note that no one is suggesting newspapers should remove articles or not publish them in the first place.

"In Google v. Spain, the European Court of Justice ruled that the European citizens have a right to request that commercial search firms, such as Google, that gather personal information for profit should remove links to private information when asked, provided the information is no longer relevant. The Court did not say newspapers should remove articles," the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently noted in a posting on its website.

"The Court found that the fundamental right to privacy is greater than the economic interest of the commercial firm and, in some circumstances, the public interest in access to Information," EPIC said.

A recently leaked version of a Google transparency report found,that the vast majority of requests for delisting,concern private matters of private individuals, EPIC said.

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