Social networks, blogs, discussion forums and chats are some of the resources that today allow Internet users to «show up» online, sharing photos, links and, mainly, expressing their opinion. At a time when the «full» of Web 2.0 is living, however, there are those who defend exactly the opposite: the right to be forgotten in the large network.
The claim is not new and has been targeted by high political bodies – such as the European Commission -, but it has taken on more recently, with the decision of the Spanish data protection agency (AEPD) to compel Google to remove links for sites with content considered offensive to privacy and the good name.
The situations date back about two and a half years ago and are almost all related to complaints from individuals about the publication of information or data online in different spaces, namely newspapers and blogs.
The specific case covers five resolutions of this body (to which the respondents had made a complaint) that the search engine refused to comply, resorting to the courts.
Google claims that the responsibility for making the data available on the Internet rests with the publisher, not with the search engine that indexes it. «We cannot be the censors of the Internet, we limit ourselves to reflect exhaustively the content of the Internet, what really exists on the Network».
At the hearing that already took place, the search giant argued that eliminating or modifying content would cause the Internet to lose its «objectivity», claiming that the first victim would be the Information Society.
For Google, if natural people could erase all the information they considered harmful, the Internet would become a «family album». On the other hand, ordering the deindexation of content calls into question freedom of expression, that is, we are talking about censorship, it accuses.
But is it possible to delete information harmful to a citizen’s good name published online if entities like Google don’t cooperate? «No. If the search engines do not delete the information, people’s rights are not guaranteed. It is obvious that the cooperation of these entities is necessary for the data to disappear, so there is every legitimacy in this request», said a Commission source. National Data Protection (CNPD) to Tek.
Still, eliminating «traces» from the Internet can prove to be a difficult, if not impossible, task. «Even with the help of search engines, the ‘blackout’ is never guaranteed because in the meantime the information may have been copied and reported on other sites».
In Portugal, CNPD has already faced some requests for the elimination of information, «occasional cases, mostly related to the closure of accounts and records in discussion forums, in which we have intervened, successfully».
In these cases the decision was favorable to the complainants, but if the requests were related to the withdrawal of posts and comments the situation would be different. «In that case, we would be talking about removing something that is the essence of the dynamics of a discussion forum: opinions, and that would not make sense».
For CNPD, the theme cannot be seen in «black and white». «Each case is a case and should be assessed as such. Possibly a border area must be found in each of them», or there was no need to consider the citizen’s right to privacy, on the one hand, and freedom of expression so characteristic of the Internet, on the other.