In April 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled, unremarkably, that Google should amend search results that are unfair to individual users – if they are clearly out of date and irrelevant, for example. Google’s reaction was ferocious – it launched a major press campaign to try to undermine the legal basis for the ruling, it actively contacted journalists telling them that their articles had been consigned to some sort of Orwellian “memory hole”, it set up a committee of wise elders to advise them on how to deal with this terrible decision.
Although the ruling could have been significantly clearer, Google’s interpretation is unquestionably wrong. It claims that the Court is demanding that Google take arbitrary decisions that limit fundamental freedoms. However, this interpretation is quite obviously legally impossible, as this would mean that the Court made a fundamental mistake in law, contradicting Article 52 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which explicitly says that restrictions on fundamental freedoms must be provided for by law.
The media avalanche has now given additional ammunition to those countries in the Justice Council that are seeking to kill or weaken ad absurdum the European Commission’s proposal to update and clarify European data protection rules – not that this was Google’s intention, of course.
But then, after Google’s energetic opposition to fixing unfair, damaging search results for private individuals, Google images threw up an unfair, damaging search result for a company. At 15.29 on 19 August, a Twitter user sent a message to the British company Greggs, pointing out that searches for the company’s name led to Google displaying a satirical version of their logo. Greggs responded two minutes later. Fifty-nine minutes, Google confirmed that it had amended its search results with no complaints, no court case, no committee of wise internet elders to advise them on the challenge of the right thing to do when search results are manifestly unfair.
Greggs’ famous pies and pastries have far more consistency than Google’s policy on amending search results.
Exchange of tweets between Google and Greggs bakery (19.08.2014)