I am not a big fan of the EUâ€™s â€œright to be forgotten,â€ but it has one silver lining. Â I was noodling around with Googleâ€™s ever-more-baroque implementation of the principle this weekend, and I discovered that it offers a quick and cheap way to discover just how famous Google thinks you are.
To understand how Google got in the â€œfamous or notâ€ business requires a dive into the search engineâ€™s stutter-step implementation of the EU requirement. Â In China, of course, when Google is required to suppress a link, it includes a warning on the results page, saying in essence that the results have been censored. Â Google originally planned to do the same in response to European censorship. Â But the European data protection censors didnâ€™t like that kind of transparency. Â They thought that the notice, even if it didnâ€™t actually say what had been suppressed, would stigmatize Europeans who invoked the right to be forgotten. (That, and it might remind searchers that their access to data was being restricted by European law.)
Google caved, mostly. Â But it left in place a vestige of its original policy. Now, it includes the following warning on its European results pages wheneverÂ any name is searched for: Â â€œSome results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.Â Learn more.â€
But that policy isnâ€™t implemented across the board. Â As Googleâ€™s global privacy counsel explained a month ago, â€œMost name queries are for famous people and such searches are very rarely affected by a removal, due to the role played by these persons in public life, we have made a pragmatic choice not to show this notice by default for known celebrities or public figures.â€
So there you have it. Â Somewhere, Google has an algorithm for deciding who is a celebrity or public figure and who is not. Â To find out whether you made the grade, all you have to do is go to Google.co.uk, and type in your name. Then look at the bottom of the page for the tag that says, â€œSome results may have been removedâ€ etc. Â If itâ€™s not there, apparently youâ€™re a public figure in Googleâ€™s eyes. Â If it is, well, youâ€™d better get working on your SEO techniques.
I found this when I searched for myself and didnâ€™t see the â€œsome resultsâ€ tag-of-ignominy. I thought that was weird, so I ran a few other names. Â And it looks as though Google is making a cut based on number of name searches, but as Googleâ€™s counsel more or less admitted in his letter, the system is still pretty rough. Â Maybe it will get better. Â But why wait until it comes out of beta? Â Knowing Google, that could be years.
Letâ€™s ask now who makes it past Googleâ€™s equivalent of the red velvet rope. Â Hereâ€™s my quick census:
Google-Famous:Â Stewart Baker,Â Ben Wittes, Eugene Volokh, Jack Goldsmith, Orin Kerr, Kent Walker, Nicole Wong, Declan McCullagh, Peter Swire, Annie Anton, Dan Geer (cybersecurity guru), Jim Lewis (ditto), Raj De (NSAâ€™s GC), Dianne Feinstein(Senate intelligence committee chair), David Hoffman (upcoming guest on the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast), Chris Soghoian,Â James X. Dempsey (CDT senior counsel, member of Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board).
Not Google-Famous: Â Nuala Oâ€™Connor (head of CDT), Michael Daniel (White House cybersecurity czar), Bob Litt (DNIâ€™s general counsel), John P. Carlin (Assistant AG for National Security), Michael J. Rogers (chair of House intelligence committee), David Medine (chair of Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board),Michael Vatis (cohost of theÂ Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast), Jason Weinstein (ditto), Ellen Nakashima (astonishingly prolific Washington Post national security reporter).
Itâ€™s pretty clear that Google is struggling with the old saw, â€œOn the Internet, everyone is famous for fifteen people.â€ Â But itâ€™s still hard to see exactly where the line is being drawn.
For further irony, consider Max Mosley, who is internet-famous mainly for the video of his multi-hour, multi-hooker, sadomasochistic orgy and for his successful campaign to force Google to suppress links to those pictures. Â His search results areÂ being censored. Â But heâ€™s now so famous that Google gives us no warning â€” not even that they might be bowdlerized. Â That canâ€™t make sense.
But why should I have all the fun? Â Why not google yourself first (donâ€™t pretend you wonâ€™t) and then your friends and acquantances? Â Then list any additional surprises in the comments.
Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/09/01/does-google-think-youre-famous/