The Right to Obscure: A Mechanism and Initial Evaluation / 1156
Eric Hsin-Chun Huang, Jaron Lanier, Yoav Shoham
The recent landmark "right to be forgotten" ruling by the EU Court gives EU citizens the right to remove certain links that are "inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive" from search results under their names. While we agree with the spirit of the ruling — to empower individuals to manage their personal data while keeping a balance between such right and the freedom of expression, we believe that the ruling is impractical as it provides neither precise criteria for evaluating removal requests nor concrete guidelines for implementation. Consequently, Google's current implementation has several problems concerning scalability, objectivity, and responsiveness. Instead of the right to be forgotten, we propose the right to obscure certain facts about oneself on search engines, and a simple mechanism which respects the spirit of the ruling by giving people more power to influence search results for queries on their names. Specifically, under our proposed mechanism, data subjects will be able to register minus terms, and search results for their name queries that contain such terms would be filtered out. We implement a proof-of-concept search engine following the proposed mechanism, and conduct experiments to explore the influences it might have on users' impressions on different data subjects.