The world of web archiving inadvertently received a boost this week from an unlikely source, the European Court of Justice. It’s recent ruling in the case of Mario Costeja Gonzalez is a classic case of a ruling where the unintended consequences will outweigh the intended. It means that in future, if I object to a link to an article that I consider to be potentially damaging to my reputation, I can ask for that link to be taken down. In future, Google, Bing and Yahoo will have to modify the results of a search to remove links affected by the ruling. That the ruling is based on a law with roots in the 1700’s is considered irrelevant. What we are left with is a form of censorship.
As John Gapper of the Financial Times rightly points out, whilst the law is designed to protect people’s privacy, it is most likely to be used by people and organisations with something to hide. He provides an excellent example from his own experience of dealing with a property developer who aroused suspicions, only to find, thanks to a few Google searches, a track record of highly dubious behaviour. In Europe at least, this ruling makes it harder to check their credentials.
If, in future, the internet is going to be subject to manipulation, then it becomes ever more important to store, record or archive what was originally there. In other words, it’s another reason to consider web archiving.
The EU ruling is particularly ridiculous as anyone making a search outside the EU will still get the original links. In a way it reinforces what a senseless decision this actually is, but that’s hardly the point. What matters is that the senior court in Europe is not only condoning, but promoting manipulation of the internet.
The internet is now the single most important communication medium that we have. As a way to gather and broadly communicate information in personal, commercial, government and other spheres, it is unparalleled. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the temptation to manipulate is strong. We already have astro turfing, we have censorship and now we have court sponsored modification of search results. It’s become common practice for false statements, misleading information and IP infringements displayed on the web to be taken down at the first sign of trouble. Robust, standards based web archiving is a way to hold organisations and individuals to account.
The benefits of web archiving are now moving beyond preservation for compliance or heritage purposes. We are seeing interesting applications in insurance investigations, IP litigation, employee relations, web security, forensic accounting and marketing analytics, to name a few. If you have operations in Europe or you’d like to find out more about how web archiving can help your organisation, please get in touch with us at Hanzo Archives.