Sunday, April 15, 2018

Potentially bad news for history and genealogy

Tara Calishain, indefatigable creator and maintainer of ResearchBuzz, reports:

BetaNews: Google loses big ‘right to be forgotten’ case — and it could set an important precedent. “A businessman with an historic criminal conviction has won his case against Google in a ‘right to be forgotten’ lawsuit seeking to remove information about his conviction from search results. The case, heard today in London, could set a precedent and lead to a series of similar cases from other people with spent convictions. The anonymous businessman — known only as NT2 — has a conviction for conspiracy to intercept communications from more than a decade ago and spent six months in prison for the crime.”

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Last year in a luncheon talk I speculated on what genealogy might be like in 2117. It was mostly not a very pretty picture, and so far -- just one year in! -- the following piece of that talk seems to be on target. I suggested that . . .

Profit-driven corporations will fight the good fight against those who claim a “right to be forgotten.” Perhaps the decisive court case will involve Googlecestry vs. the North American Union, when those who advocate such a right to be forgotten will sue to have their role in that fight itself forgotten.

If that case is resolved wrongly, then genealogy could even become an illegal conspiracy. The use of cursive writing could become a code furthering said conspiracy. Somewhere deep in the suburban slums, history books would be furtively traded for images of the “forgotten” presidents. I’m still just enough of a 20th-century person to think that this might not happen.


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