he European Union’s high court ruled Tuesday that users should have the opportunity to remove old, irrelevant and even embarrassing links from Google’s search engine. But while the extent of the new mandate is unclear, it has already spurred questions about whether it might hamper free speech in Europe and abroad.
The European Court of Justice’s decision makes it so that, in some cases, users can request Google to remove particular links, such as newspaper articles or even legal documents, from search results. Rather than permanently erasing content, the webpages will still exist but instead will be much harder to find through Google. The EU’s decision reverses last year’s preliminary court opinion, which sided with Google, saying that the company wouldn’t have to remove links to comply with privacy laws. Other search engines, such as Yahoo, weren’t affected by the court’s decision.
But while Tuesday’s decision ends a years-long tug-of-war between Google and the EU over the Internet giant’s data collection practices, it raises practical and privacy concerns. “One of the unusual things about this case is that the [petitioned article] could stay up, but Google couldn’t link to it. [But] is it OK if Google linked to it from the U.S.? We don’t know yet,” Parker Higgins, an Electronic Frontier Foundation activist and spokesperson, told ThinkProgress. Continue reading “Erasing your Google history”