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May 14, 2014
The EU Gets Reckless With An Eraser
 
Be mindful of a troubling ruling by the European Court of Justice as you search through information on Google. Your assumption has been that if it's been printed, it's likely to be on Google. But not necessarily, if the thrust of a ruling by the European Court of Justice someday becomes a new standard for saving, and making available, printed information. Siding with a Spanish national, as noted in an InformationWeek dispatch, the EU court ruled that a Spanish newspaper and Google had to remove two mentions of an old debt from articles published in 1998 and from Google search links to those articles. 

An EU Justice Commissioner hailed the decision, maintaining that "The data belongs to the individual, not to the company." What? That sort of thinking can underline the whole basis of information-gathering and storing: that information pertinent to newsworthy activity is pertinent, period. The EU commissioner maintains that the "right to be forgotten" is not absolute and that EU law protects the media and freedom of expression. "People will NOT be able to change or erase history," she wrote. 

Well, we'll see. If librarians have to start excising material from newspaper morgues because someone named in print would prefer not to be there, or to have his or her past actions sanitized, that sounds pretty threatening to us. That, after all, is what an eraser can do. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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