May a year ago, data privacy laws and digital strategies took an interesting tact toward the rights of individuals to be known and or not known to Google search. On the heels of a case dating back to 2010 involving a Spanish citizen who filed a complaint with the National Data Protection Agency against a Spanish newspaper, Google Spain and Google Inc, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on May 2014 that Google would not escape its responsibilities before European law when handling personal data by simply referring to itself as a search engine.
In this case specifically, the Court of Justice ruled that data protection laws apply and so do the rights of this individual and others to be digitally forgotten by Google. In the year since the ruling, Google has been in the position of having to consider delete requests and make the call on its own, all while striking a balance on people’s individual digital rights to privacy against the public’s right to know (aka the Privacy Exchange Rate). Since going into effect, Google has received more than 250,000 requests involving almost one million links in a year. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has agreed to remove 35% of the links submitted and declined to remove 50%, with 15% still under review.
And in related digital strategies, Google announced that they will be updating their TRs (tansparency reports) in order to keep up with more complicated requests for data collected through their search business. Google transparency reports have been produced since 2010. The reports had previously included things like:
- Government requests to remove content
- Requests by copyright owners to remove search results
- Google product activity
- Safe browsing statistics, and email protection requests, and
- EC privacy requests
Transparency reports are now updated at Google too to include new emergency and preservation requests received for more time-sensitive disclosures. Emergency requests include information about individuals in immediate danger that may be helpful in rescue efforts. Special fast track systems are now in place to emergency requests received not just from US authorities but from an all countries. Preservation requests entail requests to put certain information about an individual or situation to the side. This is done so that information pertaining to an investigation, for example, is not lost and can be easily and quickly located by Google.
With the first year of the right to be forgotten behind us, and these new transparency capabilities in place by what some might consider the most successful digital strategy services firm we've seen, it's interesting to think about the intersection between digital, transparency, and risk. Should transparency be considered a design principle of any enterprise digital strategy? In the 3rd platform era of big data, what are the business, operational and technology outcomes to target when considering transparency as a digital strategy component? What role does technology play, both as a contributor and transparency enabler?