Newspaper article International New York Times

Asking to Be 'Forgotten' by Google Won't Erase a Past ; Technology Experts Say What's Really Needed Is a New Online Etiquette

Newspaper article International New York Times

Asking to Be 'Forgotten' by Google Won't Erase a Past ; Technology Experts Say What's Really Needed Is a New Online Etiquette

Article excerpt

A European court has mandated a technological solution from Google, but some technology experts say that what is really needed is a cultural movement.

Mario Costeja, the Spanish lawyer who spurred the European Union's controversial ruling this month on the "right to be forgotten," waged his war against Google after a search for his name brought up a newspaper article from more than a decade ago about his debts.

But had it been decades earlier, in a pre-Google world, the article would still have been publicly accessible. It just would have required a trip to the newspaper's morgue to flip through the physical archives. Unflattering public data was always available to someone willing to do the legwork or hire a private investigator; the Internet has simply made it much, much easier to find.

The discomfort of people like Mr. Costeja demonstrates that people want to make it harder. The disagreement is over how to do so. The European court mandated a technological solution from Google. But some technology experts say that what is really needed is a cultural movement to create new standards of online etiquette and responsibility.

"Do we really want to live in a world where every bit of information is as timeless as every other bit of information, and context has been forgotten?" said Hilary Mason, a data scientist in residence at Accel, the venture capital firm. "The answer is probably not."

"But there is no way it could be just a regulatory or technical fix," she added. "I actually think it's a cultural fix in the sense that we really need to figure out what world we want to live in and then figure out how to build the systems to support that."

Erasing links to information from Google would do relatively little -- and not just because the information would still be available on the website that originally published it.

Technologically, keeping things off the Internet is a game of cat and mouse, as anyone who has fought spammers or trolls knows well. …

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