Spanish fight to singe Google's beard

A Spanish campaign for the right to be forgotten is gathering momentum.

More than 90 cases of people who want information deleted from the web, now have the backing of their government and it has ordered Google to stop indexing information about 90 citizens who filed formal complaints with its data protection agency.

The case is in court now, and apparently is being closely watched by the EU which is keen to see how much control its citizens will have over information they posted, or which was posted about them, on the web.

The European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, said she wanted to give privacy authorities greater power to tell Google to sling its hook.

She said that it was wrong that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace.

But the privacy thing is set to cause a spat between the US and the EU. The US has its belief that you have the right to publish the truth, whereas the EU believes that people have the right to privacy.

European law balances the freedom of speech and the right to know against a person’s right to privacy or dignity. It is all based on the way that information was collected and used against individuals under dictators like Franco and Hitler.

The US has yet to tell its government to sling its hook when it comes to the ability of people and governments to attack other people and beliefs using the “free press”.

Google said that if the Spanish succeed in their beard singeing, it would have a have a profound, chilling effect on free expression without protecting people’s privacy.

Spain’s Data Protection Agency, created in the 1990s to protect individual rights, believes that search engines have altered the process by which most data ends up forgotten.

Deputy director of the agency, Jesus Rubi, told Associated Press  that the Spanish government gazette, which used to publish every weekday, including bankruptcy auctions, official pardons, and who passed the civil service exams went online, making it possible for embarrassing information to be obtained easily.

If Google never deletes the data it could be with the person for the rest of their lives.