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Some legal scholars see the push for the "right to be forgotten" as threatening freedom of speech and freedom of the press, especially when information published concerns adults and is true. European data-privacy laws require that information be "up to date" and "relevant" - standards that could be hard to maintain for Internet services that collect vast amounts of information and make it available with little or no human action.
Unflattering search results also have caused unease for people and businesses in the United States, with complaints particularly intense when youthful indiscretions - pictures of somebody drinking too much at a party or a newspaper article of an arrest - linger on the Internet for years.
Those embarrassed by Google links in the United States have little legal recourse, though some companies offer services that purport to improve search results for a fee. A lawsuit attempting to block or remove links to online information would probably conflict with the First Amendment, which confers far broader protections than provided in most other countries.
"If you are a 16-year-old and you do something dumb, there is no way to hit the reset button," said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor and former head of consumer protection for the Federal Trade Commission. But, he added, "privacy rights shouldn’t be a tool to rewrite history. . . . Who gets to decide whether all these links get deleted?"
Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, founder of Europe-v-Facebook.org, applauded Tuesday’s court ruling but worried that it may have gone too far in potentially limiting freedom of speech.
"This might be a little too off-balance," he said, "even from the European perspective."
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