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British government committee says EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling is unreasonable and impossible


And so the saga continues … In the short time since the EU ruled that individuals have the right to be forgotten when sensitive information found in search results is considered “outdated or irrelevant,” we’ve seen what is probably best described as the makings of a damn good sitcom. (Note to networks: if you make it, I want my ten percent.)

We first had the amusement of deleted links being reported by the media, bringing the stories back into the limelight. We then had Google describing the impossible position in which it has been placed, being asked to make “difficult and debatable judgements” based on “very vague and subjective tests.”

This was followed by the EU rapping Google’s knuckles for doing it wrong, and we now have a bipartisan British governmental committee disagreeing with the EU and agreeing with Google that it is being asked to “enforce the impossible” … 

To make sense of this latest development, I face the challenge of explaining to a largely American audience the bizarre political setup in the UK using just two paragraphs …

Kind of like the US, we have two Houses to our parliamentary system. The House of Commons, broadly equivalent to the US House of Representatives, and the House of Lords, which you can kind of think of as something like the Senate – except it isn’t, much. Members of the House of Lords are not elected. Some members are hereditary (literally born into the role) while others are rather arbitrarily appointed by the government of the day, which tries to pack the place with its own supporters. If the House of Lords doesn’t like a law proposed by the House of Commons, it can reject it and send it back for further discussion and possible amendment.

We then have the European Union. This is a coalition of 28 European countries, each of which has agreed that the EU is entitled to make certain decisions which all 28 member states are legally obliged to go along with. So if the EU makes a ruling, that then becomes law in all 28 countries in the club. All perfectly straightforward.

So, back to our comedy of errors. The EU made the original ruling, which means that it applies in the UK. However, the EU Sub-Committee in the House of Lords – a small group that examines decisions made by the EU – has now said that the EU decision is wrong, reports the BBC.

The Lords Home Affairs EU Sub-Committee also said it was wrong to give search engines such as Google the job of deciding what should be removed […]

In a new report, the cross-party committee warned of the danger of trying to “enforce the impossible”, saying the judgement had resulted in material being blocked on the basis of “vague, ambiguous and unhelpful” criteria which did not reflect the current state of information technology.

So the most sensible thing that has so far been said on the matter was by a committee drawn from a group of unelected politicians whose powers derive from decisions made in the 14th Century. I’m buying shares in popcorn companies.

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