Opinion: Google and the right to be forgotten vs. the right to know

From The Denver Post:  What if the woman who started the catastrophic Hayman fire could remove her name from all online accounts of the incident? What if local newspaper stories of fraud, business disputes, drunken accidents, and domestic violence could be erased from a Google search by petition of the guilty party in asserting his “right to be forgotten?”

Sound far-fetched? It’s happening right now.

Recently, Google removed 1 million links from its European search engines to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling that allows individuals to petition websites to remove online content deemed “inadequate or irrelevant.” Now, French bureaucrats are demanding Google apply the “right to be forgotten” to all its search engines, including www.google.com, which is used in the United States. Google is appealing the decision.

Meanwhile, California has passed a law that creates a limited version of this right to minors, allowing them to remove information they posted. While a far cry from the EU’s nearly absolute appeal, more may be on the way. IT security consultant Software Advice found that 39 percent of Americans want an EU-style “right to be forgotten” without restrictions, while another 61 percent want some version of a law.

While privacy is a vital right, it should not be conflated with restricting public information. The right to be forgotten should not eclipse the right to know.

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