Friday, June 12, 2015

#Google, the French, and le droit à l'oubli

The French are again challenging Google over the company's neural algorithm and associated indefinite caching. Apparently they'd like for Google to reset the search history on routine basis... and to extend that practice globally. Google has already been compelled by Europe's highest court to forget some things:

What you need to know about the 'right to be forgotten' on Google

A key part of Google's search is the use of historical information, i.e. what you searched for in the past and related patterns, which may be established by what other people searched for. The search algorithm apparently functions quite similarly to how our brains retrieve info: the more you try to recall something, the quicker and more facile that process of recollection becomes. The brain is trained.

The problem is that once a pattern is established, there is no fresh search. Ever. The search network becomes 'wired.' Thus arises a reasonable complaint that a search engine can, in effect, steer traffic away from less-visited sites, perhaps placing local business at a disadvantage. If you want a search engine to feature new sites and services, you'd need to wire in some bias toward them.

A related issue is that once something is online, it tends to get parroted and cached all over, so that it never ...ever... goes away. (Hence internet 'truthification'... the tendency for even the most blatantly false info to live on and on)

What if you didn't want a statement or indiscrete photo to remain immortal on the internet? It'd be very hard -if not impossible- to expunge. This is going to be a very big problem for young people, who are likely to say or do things online that they later wish they hadn't. Their indiscretions are on permanent record.

Google does a very fine job of finding exactly what people want. That's a good thing, but also a bad thing, according to the French. Everyone should have le droit à l'oubli. And maybe they have a point.

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