Google “Right To Be Forgotten”: Should It Come To India?

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Life was way easier in the early 2000s when the Internet and social media was not really prevalent in India. Today you can dig up information related to almost any community, organization or individual. Back in those days, you could not really do that easily. However, that has changed considerably over the last few years; something you did years ago can still be dug up easily today.

This is where Google’s “right to be forgotten“, or more accurately, “right to be de-listed” came into play. Its first ever trial happened in May 2014, in the High Court of England and Wales. In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice established the right to be forgotten allowing Europeans to ask search engines to remove information about them from the search results. The ruling held that Google had to remove links or information about a person, if that individual asks it to do so, and if the information is considered to be inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.

Recently, in Google’s latest transparency report, the company has revealed that it received more than 2.4 million URLs requested by Europeans for delisting from Google Search since May 2014, and out of that, 43% of requested URLs have been removed. It has also detailed the nature of those takedown pleas. A businessman, who can only be referred as NT1 and convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990s, launched a legal battle against Google to remove some search results that mention his case about his criminal conviction. In this regard, Google said that the claimant should not be allowed to rewrite history. This case happened to have caused a lot of distress in the European Union lately.

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Google’s transparency report also revealed that nearly 89% of requests were from private individuals, and the remaining 11% of requests were from others, which includes minors (40%), corporates and politicians (21% each), non-government public figures (14%) and others (4%).

Digital India: Not Everything Deserves to be on the Internet

In India, the active social media users, as well as internet users, have risen drastically. From students to corporates, bureaucrats to politicians and economists to critics, almost everybody in this country makes use of a search engine and social media platforms. Organizations and businesses keep a tab on trending social media advances. The number of such active uses are only bound to grow in the future. It’s estimated that nearly 226 million people in India will be using any social network by the end of 2018, while the number of internet users in India will rise to 500 million by the end of June 2018.

The exploded adoption of internet and social media has allowed internet information giants, likes of Google and Facebook, have access to personal information of millions of internet users who make use of these platforms and spend a sizable amount of their time on these platforms on a daily basis.

Indian internet users, which are often criticised for falling short of digital civilisation level, always quite influenced by the information available on social media or internet platforms. The growing tide of fake news in India is not a secret anymore. Google’s stand to expose the wrongdoings of people by listing them online looks convincing. On the other hand, the people who are wrongly accused of a crime they didn’t commit or the innocent victims can be helped greatly with the so-called “right to be forgotten“.

The youth in the country who have been exposed to cyber-bullying can be benefitted with this. India ranks third in the global cyberbullying list. With the accent of social media in this country, crime also has increased many-folds. People are confiding to social media when they want to talk about crimes and other heinous activities. The victims, and also the criminals, are making use of social and broadcasting media when they want their voice to be heard.

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Henceforth, the excessive use of internet and social media in this tech-savvy era has made the identity of people vulnerable. In spite of the safe and secure network, we never really know who might be watching us or when can someone attack us online. Google itself has amassed a lot of data from its users, available for public or private. But the important concern is if it is highly offensive to someone or even required. Also whether such pieces of information should be irrevocable or not?

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