The Guardian is now starting to report on the bizarre first wave of Google search results that are being erased thanks to the so-called “right to be forgotten” ruling. After a European court ruled that individuals have the right to demand that “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” search results be erased, we are now witnessing the first signs of random people’s awkward and embarrassing incidents vanishing from collective consciousness.
Among the first batch of erased search results is an oddball story about bored French office workers creating complex art out of Post-it Notes on their windows. This is one of those quirky late August stories European newspapers run when there is nothing to report. It clearly wasn’t even quirky enough to generate any real interest — the story garnered only 17 Facebook shares and 2 tweets.
But there is one thing about the summer fluff that has now made it immortal. Two careless young Parisian managers gave quotes to The Guardian about the silly hobby on record and the story probably started popping up whenever somebody did a Google search for their names.
As a matter of fact, if you do a Google search using the name of one of these managers with the American Google.com website, the silly summer story pops up on the front page. But if you use the British Google.co.uk site, the story has vanished from the front page. In United States, potential employers doing a cursory search will see the potentially embarrassing item, but in Europe they won’t.
Google is now effectively turning its European search engines into a service that is deliberately unreliable. Do you have the right to know if your employee or fiance did something silly in the summer of 2011? No? What about a lawyer’s messy fraud trial? Would that not be relevant to a potential client or employer?
Things are getting fairly weird in a hurry for Google in Europe. And those French office workers who probably should not have agreed to be quoted by an often snarky British newspaper? They may have succeeded in getting Google to erase links to the embarrassing article — but in doing so too quickly, they are now reaching a new level of fame as the first benefactors of modern search erasure laws. A mixed blessing.