At an event on legal and technical views on privacy hosted by Maynooth University last Wednesday, there was a round table discussion “The Right to be Forgotten Demystified”. Some of the speakers involved in the discussion are pictured below.

The main crux of the discussion was the “right to be forgotten” ruling by the European Court of Justice last year. This game changing decision came after a case was taken by a Spaniard who wanted Google to remove search result links but not the actual content. The links led you to outdated information about a personal bankruptcy involving the Spaniard. Microsoft’s Bing search has also complied with the ruling even though they weren’t mentioned in the court case. The outcome of the case is that EU citizens can request that search engine links to outdated or incorrect information can be removed.

Ronan Kennedy NUI Galway, Rob Corbet Arthur Cox, William Malcolm Google, Eoin O'Dell TCD, Dr Maria Murphy Maynooth University

Ronan Kennedy NUI Galway, Rob Corbet Arthur Cox, William Malcolm Google, Eoin O’Dell TCD, Dr Maria Murphy Maynooth University (Photograph William Murphy Informatique)

Google have noted that this was a landmark case and that they are still evolving how they will handle the outcome of the case. Google senior privacy counsel William Malcolm said that Google started receiving requests immediately after the ruling and hurried to work out a system that would take and process requests. He also stated that Google has assessed more than one million individual URLs since the ruling by the European Court of Justice.

One very important point raised by Eoin O’Dell TCD associate professor of law was the increasing amount of power that companies such as Google have on the internet. The majority of internet usage is done via Google and this can be via Google’s chrome browser or mobile devices that run on Google’s Android OS, so you can see the point that Eoin made.

One of the last points made was by Ronan Kennedy NUI Galway law lecturer and he stated that a right to be forgotten will not be easy to implement because “computers were not intended to forget.” If computers will not forget will we eventually end up with a world full of HAL’s or Skynet’s?