Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin: I Wish I Could Forget The “Right To Be Forgotten”

Google legalTonight at the Re/Code conference in Southern California, Google co-founder Sergey Brin was interviewed on stage. He discussed many things, including the diverse range of “Google X” projects: indoor mapping (Tango), WiFi balloons (Project Loon), new prototype self-driving cars and more.

Curiously the main interview, though wide ranging, didn’t get into the recent European Court ruling on the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF). During audience Q&A it came up in a single question, to which Brin jokingly and dismissively replied: ”I wish we could just forget the ruling,” Brin says. “But we’re not forgetting the ruling.”

Of course they’re not forgetting. What a time to be a lawyer at Google.

Practical implementation of the RTBF, which allows individuals to seek the de-indexing of personal information that has become “outdated” or “irrelevant” (even if legal), will create procedural challenges across the numerous jurisdictions throughout Europe. Each jurisdiction is free, in theory, to enact a different process.

According to Bloomberg, Germany is first out of the gate with a potential RTBF ”takedown” procedure:

The German government is considering setting up arbitration courts to weigh in on what information people can force Google Inc. and other search-engine providers to remove from results . . . the Interior Ministry in Berlin would seek to establish “dispute-settlement mechanisms” for consumers who file so-called take-down requests . . . 

The ministry suggested that the removal of information shouldn’t be left to company algorithms . . .

The German ministry doesn’t currently plan to create a single mediating authority or to put mediators under state supervision, it said. Talks with Google and other providers will begin once the government has finalized its position.

This is how it appears it will go: there will be a request to Google (or other search engine) to remove some link or links from search results (not unlike DMCA in the US). Google will make a decision based on review of the content in dispute. Because of the vagueness of the EU Court’s language and ruling lots of individual discretion will come into play.

If Google declines the request the complainant will have recourse to this suggested arbitration process. It’s not clear how much that would cost or whether lawyers would be involved (creating a potentially very real imbalance between rich and poor). If the complainant were again denied there would probably be some further appeals process, though that’s not at all clear at this point either.

There are two ways to look at this idea of an arbitration system for RTBF complaints. One is as a human mechanism to carefully and thoughtfully balance the right to know with the right to be forgotten. The other, more ominously, is as an “information bureau” or “censorship court” that will officially decide what information can and cannot reside in the corpus of search results.

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Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Legal: Privacy | Legal: Regulation | Right To Be Forgotten | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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