The Right to be forgotten is related to personal data protection.
It can be defined as the right of the user to request the removal or de-indexing from search engines of specific links relating to personal information.
The right to be forgotten allows to wash away given pieces of information considered “inadequate and non-relevant” by the owner.
The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja Gonzàlez case: now all search engines are to be considered responsible of the data they process - and are bound to evaluate each user's requests to remove specific content.
This graph shows the evolution of the wikipedia pages about the “right to be forgotten” from 2007 to 2014 in five different languages.
Each line represents an event, and its trend. The points at the edges of each line represent its beginning and endig, while the double points are common events in multiple languages.
This topic is gaining more and more attention, generating an increasing interest towards it. The different pages on Wikipedia that deal with this subject are in continuous growth.
The topic started to be discussed first on the Italian page in 2007, then the others followed. While the english one is one of the last to talk about it, being created only in 2014 after the ruling, it is by far the richest.
Through the analysis on Wikipedia it is immediately clear that the main issues are Censorship, Privacy and Freedom of information, which are the input to the web corpus on Google.
The analysis of each single query shows that a more positive or negative outcome is linked to the query itself. Despite this, it can be viewd that the positions of govern are generally towards a more positive way, where the media are generally against the Right to be forgotten.
By geo-localizing the journalists of the web corpus, it is immediately clear that the majority of those contrary to the Right to be forgotten are from United States and United Kingdom. The size of the circles shows the number of quotes gathered in the previous analysis.
The data which the subject requires removal from the search engines, of whatever nature they may be, are perceived in a negative way by the person concerned.
The Right to be forgotten allows to not remain indefinitely exposed to further damage, to honor and reputation, caused by the reiterate publication of a piece of information.
Since the implementation of the European Court of Justice ruling, the requests of removal of link related to personal information have been directly forwarded to Google (as to other search engine, like Yahoo or Bing). Google proceeds to analyze only the requests sent from European countries, judging their suitability case by case. If a request is accepted, Google will de-index that link only from its european websites, but it will still be accessible through google.com.
During the evaluation of a request a them selected by Google controls and grants the removal only to those that fulfill the parameters indicated in the May 2014 ruling.
In order to be removed, the results must be irrelevant, obsolete, inadequate and of no public interest.
As of today Google had examined a total of 641.996 urls, against a sum of 214.352 requests.
Of all of these, until today about the 40% of them have been accepted.
Google itself provides the statistics and even some examples of the requests that it receives, updating the “transparency report” continuously.
An individual sent multiple requests asking to remove 20 recent links about his arrest for financial crimes committed in a professional capacity.
A woman requested to remove a decades-old article about her husband’s murder, which included her name.
A victim of rape asked to remove a link to a newspaper article about the crime.
A media professional requested 4 links to articles reporting on embarrassing content he posted to the Internet to be removed.
A crime victim asked to remove 3 links that discuss the crime, which occurred decades ago.
An individual asked to remove links to articles on the Internet that reference his dismissal for sexual crimes committed on the job.
Google provides the information about the requests of removal coming from all the european countries and the percentage about the evaluation outcome. A higher number of requests per capita usually relates to a higher acceptance rate due probably to a better knowledge and understanding of the mechanism.
In some cases, whether the request had been accepted or denied, the fact that somebody asked to remove a piece of information may increase the public interest towards it and drawing more and more attention to it.
Following the request of removal, attention and publicity may suddenly grow, leading to a phenomenon called “Streisand effect”.
As a consequence of the Strisand effect, whether or not the de-indexing succeeded, an unrestrained increasing of the results related to that certain information can follow the single url that was asked to be removed.
An example of this phenomenon can be observed in the cases of Mario Costeja and Dougie McDonald. Both of them asked Google for removal and, even if the former’s request was accepted and the latter’s denied, both have received more attention because of it.
The graph shows the amount of results on Google using the names of both subjects before and after their request of removal.
Indipendently by the fact that the request is accepted or not and so Google or other search engines succesfully de-index the information, there’s the risk for said request of incurring in the public interest, thus generating attention and publicity towards it, obtaing the opposite outocome to what was expected.
The public interest comes from social curiosity and is able to turn over the stream of contents and information on the web.