In late 2014 The European Court of Justice ruled that Google is required to remove links from search that are deemed no longer relevant or inaccurate. This ruling, also known as ‘The right to be forgotten’ means that monitoring content on the web falls on Google’s shoulders instead of on the sites that published these types of content.
There was and still is significant commentary both for and against this ruling amongst industry experts. In this research project I will be exploring weather or not Australian media and communications students are aware of right to be forgotten laws, and what views they hold.
It was during an episode of the MakeUseOf podcast that a difference of opinion between Americans and Europeans was revealed: The Americans argued that freedom of speech trumped everything, while the Europeans condoned at least some right to privacy.
Eli S surveyed nearly 300 Americans to get their opinions using the following question: ‘Should search engines be legally required to remove information that is “outdated and irrelevant”?’ and ‘How do people feel exactly about access to their personal data in exchange for other services?’
Eli found that a significant majority at 61% were in favour of a legal requirement, while only 13% thought they shouldn’t. The remainder was unsure. Digging deeper into this, nearly 75% of respondents said they’d remove their own name from search if that option was made available.
While in Europe, one thousand requests per day were filled by Europeans to have their right to be forgotten form lodged. Users searching for the related topic on google.co.uk will see a message that says: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe” at the bottom of the page. However, those visiting the American site google.com will be unaffected, even if they reside in the UK.
In July 2014 the House of Lords’s EU Committee published a report claiming that the EU’s Right to be Forgotten is “unworkable and wrong”, and that it is based on out-dated principles. “We do not believe that individuals should have a right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said,” it said. But David Smith, deputy commissioner and director of data protection for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), hit back and claimed that the criticism was misplaced, “as the initial stages of its implementation have already shown”.
After recently considering the matter in its inquiry into serious invasions of privacy in the digital era, the Australian Law Reform Commission found that Australia does not need the right to be forgotten. It did not recommend introduction of a right to delist in Australian law.
A recent article published in The Conversation, an academic rigour, journalistic flair argued that we should put aside objections that the right to be forgotten is too hard to implement, and focus on the ideological debate that divides most people on the issue. The debate might be characterised as a showdown: privacy and compassion versus information and freedom.
As Australians we should recognise that the right has a negative impact on legitimate journalism. Access to information is an important aspect of the freedom of expression Australians enjoy. We should also recognise the harm that results when certain content is accessible online.
While it might be easy to think: sure people can have information about themselves taken down if they don’t want it, people should also consider their right to the freedom of speech. It will be interesting and extremely relevant to explore the opinions of BCM students who would be affected by this law every day if it were to take place in Australia.
Some questions that will be surveyed consist of ‘When does it become okay to take down someone else’s content?’ This research will focus on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook where students have the option and the right to share content about other people freely, and other users are able to search that.
In my research I hope to find just how much freedom of speech and breach of privacy means to BCM students, I also hope to how much they are interested and exposed to such global laws. I plan on one on one interviews with class mates, as well as using survey monkey to conduct both open and close end questions that will contribute to my research and understanding of this topic.
I feel some of the risks I could encounter on this project are the possibility of a very small number of students being aware of this law and feeling like it would have no impact on them, I also fear that this could created a heated argument a lot like Europe and America where emotions could become involved.
Australia is a small part of a connected world and as an Australian Media and Communication University Student I will be very excited to see where this will lead.