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Friday, 04 July 2014 11:09

Google having trouble forgetting

Written by Nick Farrell

Can’t remember how to do it

Search engine Google is having difficulty helping the internet to forget old news stories. Yesterday Google reversed its decision to remove several links to stories in Britain's Guardian newspaper. The stories were about how soccer referee lied about reversing a penalty decision. It was unclear who asked Google to remove the stories.

But Google has not restored links to a BBC article that described how former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer E. Stanley O'Neal was ousted after the investment bank racked up billions of dollars in losses. All this shows that Google is having a major headache adhering to a May European court ruling that gave its citizens the "right to be forgotten:" to request the scrubbing of links to articles that pop up under a name search. 

Privacy advocates say the backlash around press censorship highlight the potential dangers of the ruling and its unwieldiness in practice. Google, which has received more than 70,000 requests, began acting upon them in past days. And it notified the BBC and the Guardian, which in turn publicised the moves.

By publicising the moves it effective digs up the old story and drags the issue back into the public spotlight, rather than obscure it. That possibility may give people pause before submitting a "right to be forgotten" request. Google, which controls more than 90 percent of European online searches, said it was a learning process.

If only there were a search engine which could link you to a helpful FAQ page.

Nick Farrell

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