Fixing Europe's "Right To Be Forgotten" Disaster

Posted Jul 05, 2014


Folks requested the ability to be able to take down articles/news/etc. that are either old or contain incorrect information about themselves. However, sometimes, that bad information is a small part of a larger story or cannot be removed in the internet world for other reasons.

Bad Solution:

The European Court created a "Right to be Forgotten" law, forcing search engines (aimed specifically at Google) to have to remove links to articles when that specific person's name is searched. However, there's no real guidelines, so folks send in all sorts of demands to Google to remove links.

Stupid Result:

Somebody's wants their personal comment in the comment section of a very relevant news article "forgotten", so he sends his demand to Google, who has to now manually remove that page result from searches involving his name. This leads those involved wit that article to think that Google is removing all links and they get mad, worried, and ironically, posting more links to that page, thus focusing even more attention to it. And to get even worse, every demand sent to each search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) will be handled differently by each company, thus guaranteeing unhappy people and follow-up lawsuits/legal actions. Yuck.

My Better Idea:

Here's my much better idea for how to fix this:

A simple meta tag agreed on by the internet community. Call the tag, "keyword-non". Search engines don't associate that page with the keyword listed in that tag.

Problem solved.

Oh, you want more details? OK.

<meta name="keyword-non" content="EU -> John Smithson, EU -> Johnathan Smithson, EU -> Jon Smithson, California -> John Smithson, US -> Johnathan Smithson, BR -> Jon Smithson" />

(Sample only. Geographic tags meant to show examples of geographic tag markup.)

Meta tag name: Keyword-non

Content layout: location -> keyword, location2 -> keyword2

Location tag: Perhaps use a foundation of ISO 3166-1 codes with some other codes mixed in to cover encompassing legal domains, (I.E. US states, or other country regions)

Keyword tag: The phrase that page should not be associated with for searches done inside that geographic location.

Each geo-tag/keyword connected with an associative array key->value arrow.

Each separate geo-tag/keyword combination is separated by a comma
How It Will Work:
If someone wants themselves "forgotten", they send their request to the website. The website places the correct name(s) and geo-locations in the keyword-non tag for the offending article(s).

All search engines that re-crawl that page will automatically place the appropriate blocks in all their search engines.

Everyone's happy.

Benefits: Now, folks who want pages withheld from search engines under specific keywords (such as their name) can do so, and even better, aim those restrictions to specific geographic locations. (Since EU laws can't restrict search results in other countries)

These meta tags also are much easier to transport along with the article in cases where the article is moved, translated, etc to other URLs (which could very easily break the current "forget me" scenario).

Better yet, all search engines can much more easily follow the correct protocols with as little deviation as possible.

This also puts the requirements where they belong: On the sites that house those articles, news stories, etc. Not search engines that have zero control over what's placed on those webpages. Also highly reducing legal follow-ups owing to lack of homogenous actions by multiple unrelated search engine companies.

Do you think the W3 should adopt this? Is there a better way to do it? What do you think?

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