Another great podcast. On the first episode of Working, David Plotz talks with Stephen Colbert on how he puts his show together and turns himself from Stephen Colbert into the character “Stephen Colbert”—starting from when he wakes up in the morning, what he watches for inspiration, how he knows the material is any good, all the way through to the actual filming of the show.
In 1998, a Spanish newspaper called La Vanguardia published two small notices stating that certain property owned by a lawyer named Mario Costeja González was going to be auctioned to pay off his debts. Costeja cleared up the financial difficulties, but the newspaper records continued to surface whenever anyone Googled his name. In 2010, Costeja went to Spanish authorities to demand that the newspaper remove the items from its Web site and that Google remove the links from searches for his name. The Spanish Data Protection Agency, which is the local representative of a Continent-wide network of computer-privacy regulators, denied the claim against La Vanguardia but granted the claim against Google. This spring, the European Court of Justice, which operates as a kind of Supreme Court for the twenty-eight members of the European Union, affirmed the Spanish agency’s decisions. La Vanguardia could leave the Costeja items up on its Web site, but Google was prohibited from linking to them on any searches relating to Costeja’s name. The Court went on to say, in a broadly worded directive, that all individuals in the countries within its jurisdiction had the right to prohibit Google from linking to items that were “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.”
The consequences of the Court’s decision are just beginning to be understood. Google has fielded about a hundred and twenty thousand requests for deletions and granted roughly half of them. Other search engines that provide service in Europe, like Microsoft’s Bing, have set up similar systems. Public reaction to the decision, especially in the United States and Great Britain, has been largely critical. An editorial in the New York Times declared that it “could undermine press freedoms and freedom of speech.” The risk, according to the Times and others, is that aggrieved individuals could use the decision to hide or suppress information of public importance, including links about elected officials. A recent report by a committee of the House of Lords called the decision “misguided in principle and unworkable in practice.”