When European Union regulators decided that EU citizens have the, “right to be forgotten,” by Google, they opened up an Internet-sized can of worms.

That decision, which was delivered in May, looked great on paper but the practical realities of implementing the Euro-citizens’ new found right is anything but clear cut.

Google has already seen an avalanche of requests to remove links that, “…inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant…” As of this writing, there have been over 51,000 individual requests. That may not seem so high but, given the vague definitions provided by the EU, it’s up to Google to decide whether the links in question actually live up to that standard.

While there’s no question that the people whose names are mentioned in the links think the stories about them meet the definition, there’s no guarantee that that’s actually the case.

Complicating matters even further is the fact that the stories in question aren’t actually removed from the web, just from a few very specific searches. A recent posting on Entrepreneur.com points to the case of Dougie McDonald, a Scottish Premier League referee who made some very questionable calls during his career.

McDonald has requested that the Google remove several articles that appeared in the Guardian from searches for his name. In theory, that means that no search for his name will turn up those Guardian articles he’s so desperate to hide.

Of course that edict only applies to searches made from EU countries. Search “Dougie McDonald +soccer” anywhere else on the planet, and you can read those articles Google Europe has “forgotten.” He’s also not safe from searches like “disgraced Scottish soccer official,” which would almost certainly bring up those Guardian articles.

McDonald, and anyone else who wants to be forgotten, will also be disappointed to learn that bloggers and news sites can still link to the supposedly forgotten articles, making them anything but forgotten.

In short, the right to be forgotten is a deal that comes with a lot of fine print and is going to be a real challenge for Google to actually enforce.


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