Contest! Hacking the right to be forgotten

June 7

Just how dumb is the “right to be forgotten”? Google will make it easy to find out. That’s because Google has automated the process for making takedown requests under the European Court of Justice’s “right to be forgotten” ruling. If you’ve got a piece of personal data that you’d like forgotten, all you have to do is fill out Google’s handy online form.

Anyone can make a request (though you’ll need to take a digital photo of a piece of ID as proof of identity). You then need to find a link (using a European version of Google) and  explain why the personal data at the link is inaccurate, outdated, or inappropriate. The opportunity for abuse is obvious.

I feel bad for Google, which is stuck trying to administer this preposterous ruling. But that shouldn’t prevent us from showing quite concretely how preposterous it is.

I propose a contest. Let’s all ask for takedowns. The person who makes the most outrageous (and successful) takedown request will win a “worst abuse of privacy law” prize, otherwise known as a Privy.

To get you started, here are the four requests I’ve already filed.

1. Ban this book!

URL:

 http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-sBl2MiaodoC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&#v=onepage&q&f=false

Reason this link violates the right to be forgotten:

 The book claims that in 2007 I narrowly defeated Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair in a contest to win Privacy International’s title “Worst Public Official.” The book also states that the prize was awarded because of NSA’s controversial domestic surveillance activities, combined with fallout from the USA Patriot Act, and that the award is a “dubious” honor. This is inaccurate. In fact, I had little or nothing to do with either domestic surveillance activities at NSA or the USA Patriot Act, and the trophy is a “dubious” honor only in the sense that Privacy International never actually gave me the promised trophy, despite repeated requests on my part.

2. The Louis Brandeis memorial wuss fit over a photo

URL:

 http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2013/09/ex-nsa-gc-on-snowden-security-and-privacy.html

Reason this link violates the right to be forgotten:

 This image is outdated. It shows me with a beard.

I don’t have a beard now.

And if you look at the picture, you’ll realize why.

3. You won’t believe how much weight you can lose with this simple European Court of Justice trick

URL:

http://www.mccullagh.org/image/10/stewart-baker.html

Reason this link violates the right to be forgotten:

 This image is outdated. It is 14 years old. I’ve lost weight since then.

4. Oh hell, let’s just censor people we don’t like

URL:

 https://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=stewart+baker

Reason this link violates the right to be forgotten:

This link is inappropriate. It compiles stories making many distorted claims about my political views. Political views are a particularly sensitive form of personal data. The stories are written by men who disagree with me, and they are assembled for the purpose of making money for a website, a purpose that cannot outweigh my interest in controlling the presentation of sensitive data about myself.

Think you can do better? Enter as often as you like and send the results to vc.comments@gmail.com. If you don’t want your name listed as a winner, tell me, or use a pseudonym.

Remember, though, that prizes will be awarded only for takedown requests that succeed. Please send details demonstrating that the link you identify was in fact taken down.

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Eugene Volokh | June 7