Google : Being forgetful

Some people are better provided with links to topical content than others.

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The feature

Google, US-based search and information services giant, makes it easier for some than others to find details of an opinion-gathering initiative.

Google includes an information page in the corporate area of its global dotcom site about its establishment of an Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten in response to European Union legislation that allows people to request the removal from search engines of results that include their name. The page incorporates an online form that people are invited to use to submit their views on the legislation and how it should be implemented to Google’s Advisory Council and to be kept informed. It can be found using the internal search engine for the corporate (About) sections.

On the UK country site an identical corporate sections search (‘right to be forgotten advisory council’) produces only two results, neither connected to the information or form. On Google France the corporate search in French (‘droit à l’oubli comité consultatif’) produces two results for the dotcom information page itself, one the translated version that can be generated on the page. No results are generated on the Google Germany corporate site (for ‘Recht Beirat vergessen werden’).

The takeaway

Google has been consistently and adamantly opposed in public to the European Union’s ‘right to be forgotten’ law but has been equally keen to show that it is implementing the ruling after its introduction earlier this year while retaining its opposition to it. The Advisory Council and its call for individual opinions is part of its attempt to both continue the debate and be seen to be engaging constructively in it. On that level, though, it is not helping itself by making the information page and form less accessible in some of the major local sites in the area, the European Union, directly affected by the legislation.

It may be that many searchers will find their way to the information via the main Google search tool (bypassing the About sections) or via the results for a less-specific search (‘right to be forgotten’, for example). But even then Google, of all organisations, is using the search tool less well than it could to take people easily and directly to information that it has a declared interest in them finding. The generation of links on the France site appears to be more the result of a technical than a local governance issue – the internal search defaults to a search of google .com not google .fr. But it also points up the lack of equivalent information on the country sites, which is more likely a matter of governance.
First published 31 July, 2014
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