Google…Can we trust Google? Especially when they allowed the defamation of hundreds of thousands under the Freedom of Speech Act

Defamation control

Before the digital age dictated our every movement, it took a lot more time and effort to find information about a specific person. You may have needed to hire an investigator or spend hours digging through dusty old court documents or financial statements.

Since the explosion of the World Wide Web, access to both public and private information has changed drastically. If you’re reading this, it is likely that your name, picture, employment status and even your home address is documented and relatively easy to obtain online. It wouldn’t be too difficult to find your friends either, not to mention the people who are not your friends or people with whom you may have been in conflict.

It is this balance between privacy and freedom of information that has been at the centre of debate in both news and court rooms recently. A recent EU court ruling has just pushed digital giants, Google, to create a ‘request to be forgotten’ feature so that people have the chance to get certain websites removed from its search results.

So is the availability of information empowering us or doing more damage than good?

It depends on your lifestyle, career, social status and desired public image. We have all done things we regret, said inappropriate things or acted carelessly, whether that is at home or in our place of work. The problem is, with such a wealth of online platforms available to publish someone’s actions or mistakes, our privacy has been severely jeopardised.

In a matter of minutes, it’s possible to write a scathing restaurant review, publish somebody’s private photographs or even damage the career of a well-respected professional. Some people would argue that defamation has been hiding behind a veil of freedom of speech. The laws which were put in place to ensure that everyone had a fair say are now being abused to damage reputations.

Without any verification of truth, a defamatory statement can be viewed by millions through Google’s search engine. An individual’s worst moment, whether they have already paid the price for their mistake or not, can be the first thing Google users learn about them. Depending on the severity of the information, this malicious content has the potential to destroy lives.

The new legislation puts greater pressure on search engines to consider what is in the public interest, and what is simply malicious or unjust. Google’s ‘Search removal request’ form, which can be viewed here, states that the company will also consider how outdated the search results are. Although the request to be forgotten ruling doesn’t mean that defamatory information will be removed from the internet – search engines only have the power to take them off their results page – it is still a step in the right direction. The decision, which could help make the internet a much more ethical place, is a landmark ruling for the case of privacy.


12 responses to “Google…Can we trust Google? Especially when they allowed the defamation of hundreds of thousands under the Freedom of Speech Act”

  1. Jamal C Avatar
    Jamal C

    Of course Google cannot be trusted. It is an organisation that is based on making money. Searching their website I managed to find a code of conduct but again that is a website or an organisation that has been promoting porn sites since its foundation and now Google executives are telling us that they are taking a stand against porn…really…why now? Google becoming ethical over night is a lie…The European Court hammered them well…but this is not enough.

  2. BT Avatar

    In principle, Google and others like Bing, Yahoo etc, are basically search engines. And in theory, it functions to list websites that publishes articles/contents based on the search criteria.
    One can argue that Google is just listing what other people has published. Is it for Google or other search engine to decide what is considered defamatory/derogatory/etc?

    Now, Google has been forced to implement a search removal request programe. On what grounds does it accede or deny the request? Aren’t we now asking Google to be judge/jury/executioner?

  3. Beth Avatar

    In May Google admitted that its Street View cars were collecting sensitive personal information from unencrypted wireless networks along with harvesting photos of the world’s roadways. A privacy uproar erupted in Germany, where the inadvertent snooping was discovered, and the outrage made its way to this country, where Washington’s Neil Mertz and Oregon’s Vicki Van Valin have filed a class-action lawsuit against Google, accusing it of violating federal privacy and data acquisition laws.

    The lawsuit alleges that Google collected parts of documents, email messages, video, audio, and VoIP information being sent over networks scanned by Google’s Street View cars. The plaintiffs are seeking up to $10,000 for each time that Google collected data from unprotected hotspots, according to court documents.

    Google acknowledged the privacy snafu, and said it hadn’t known it was collecting the extra data until recently and would delete it. Meanwhile, Google faces a criminal investigation in Germany over the matter; and here in the United States the Federal Trade Commission was asked by privacy groups such as EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center) to investigate Google’s stateside data collection.

  4. AC Avatar

    Remember when we all loved Google? Its search engine was both simple to use and an unbiased portal to anything you wanted to know. It was founded by two college students at a time when Silicon Valley was a shining beacon of what was right in the world, during sunny economic and political times.

    We don’t love Google so much any more, mainly because we trust it less and less. More and more people have realized that the Google search engine is hugely biased in favor of advertisers, and the results are increasingly manipulated by Google for inscrutable purposes. Google seems to track anything and everything we do — it peruses our emails, our files stored on its servers, our locations, and our chats.

  5. Mat Honan Avatar
    Mat Honan

    The biggest reason I no longer trust Google is not because they take my data and use it internally. I don’t know who else they share it with, or who they will share it with in the future.

    What if law enforcement, government agencies or even future employers are able to identify “people of interest” based on Google’s data alone? What if Google’s future policy changes let that happen? It will be too late for all of us, because Google already knows too much about us. That’s why they have lost my trust. Let them scan my email. But don’t build a digital copy of my personality. I never signed up for that.

  6. KS Anders Avatar
    KS Anders

    Simple answer – Nobody should trust Google. They started with good intentions but unfortunately they have severely diverted from their original goals.

  7. Haddad Avatar

    I still love Google, but it is fair to say that we can no longer trust them. Much like other big companies, their desire to make more money has really sent them to the boundaries of acceptability.

  8. Cynthia F Avatar
    Cynthia F

    The ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling is ridiculous. The whole point of Google is that it indexes EVERYTHING on the internet!

  9. Hopper Avatar

    Intriguing blog, in theory Google is merely a search engine. Their biggest issue lies in the fact that their product dominates the market. They just have far too much power over what people can read.

  10. S Neer Avatar
    S Neer

    I just read something about over 50 UK newspapers having articles removed under this ruling. You can’t just wipe out the news – how ridiculous. The funny thing is that papers have re-published some of the stories online before they are hidden. Brilliant.

    1. Kim Avatar

      S Neer – I’m not sure I agree that this is ridiculous, newspapers often print articles which are relevant to the time but not to the future. For instance, it would be unfair for someone looking to rehabilitate after serving a prison sentence to be denied work due to an article. Better to have ex-cons in jobs than reoffending.

  11. San. Patel Avatar
    San. Patel

    Excuse me? You seem to be saying that the truth can be wiped from the face of the earth – Google should be objective, searching the internet and missing out on nothing. We want to find the most relevant information, rather than something cherry picked by governments and judges.

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