Right to be forgotten bill has grave implications for science

Yes, the web can be a quagmire of inaccurate, offensive libelous crap.  But wow – this new ruling about the “right to be forgotten bill” in Europe I think goes too far (e.g., see this story for more info on the bill Google gets ‘right to be forgotten’ requests hours after EU ruling – Telegraph).  (Quick summary – the ruling basically says that people have the right to request that search engines make it impossible to access   certain links – such as ones to stories the requestor does not like).

I am particularly concerned about how this bill will affect scientific discourse.  Suppose for example that Andrew Wakefield wants criticism of his fraduelent work on vaccines to be expunged from the links that come up in Google searches?  What should Google do there?  What about retracted papers in general?  What is the person behind the paper does not think that retracted papers should appear in searches for that person’s name?  This seems to be one of those cases of a very very slippery slope being created to solve a real problem but to solve it in the wrong way.

UPDATE – may not be as big a risk to Science as I thought …


Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

One thought on “Right to be forgotten bill has grave implications for science”

  1. But who *decides* if the privacy issue is outweighed by the public interest? I don't like it. In practice I bet it means that wealthy people can have their past sins removed from the record because they can hire a fancy lawyer who will argue that nobody needs to know what they've done. All knowledge is in the public interest as far as I am concerned.


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