My Take
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 3:38am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 3:38am

EU court's ruling on web search will keep skeletons in the closet

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

I was a convicted paedophile, a rapist, a gangster and "bankster".

I did serious jail time for my crimes, but that was 20 years ago. I am much better now and a changed person.

I really don't deserve to have my past define my future and who I am now.

Yet, every time I google my name, my past records and news reports of my crimes and conviction keep coming up. That's so unfair.

Luckily, I am European.

Thanks to a new decision by the top European Union court, I can now ask search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo to block such references in their searches. If they don't do it, I can sue them.

This seems to be the legal situation created by the European Court of Justice, which upheld Spaniard Mario Costeja Gonzalez's case against Google for its searches that link him to a news report about his home being foreclosed and auctioned off 16 years ago.

Notice the linked contents on the web don't have to be libellous or untrue; they are actually true or at least factual.

They are merely deemed "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant", in the words of the court, presumably as considered by the people adversely affected and angered by the web searches.

The court's definition is incredibly broad, and you can easily imagine people who really deserve to have their past bad or unflattering records kept and linked taking full advantage of the ruling, at least if they happen to be in Europe.

Yet the ruling is also incredibly narrow and therefore artificial. It does not affect those records, documents or reports being linked to by the search engines; you can still find them, though perhaps not through Google.

The judgment only impedes your ability to find them through web searches.

Yes, I don't like being defined by my internet searches any more than by people who have first impressions of me that I consider "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".

But hey, that's life and it's not fair.

Luckily, the ruling only applies within the European Union.

Let's hope the courts and the laws in other parts of the world take a more sensible approach.

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