Does America Want to Forget Some Items in the Google Index?

July 8, 2015

The idea that the Google sucks in data without much editorial control is just now grabbing brain cells in some folks. The Web indexing approach has traditionally allowed the crawlers to index what was available without too much latency. If there were servers which dropped a connection or returned an error, some Web crawlers would try again. Our Point crawler just kept on truckin’. I like the mantra, “Never go back.”

Google developed a more nuanced approach to Web indexing. The link thing, the popularity thing, and the hundred plus “factors” allowed the Google to figure out what to index, how often, and how deeply (no, grasshopper, not every page on a Web site is indexed with every crawl).

The notion of “right to be forgotten” amounts to a third party asking the GOOG to delete an index pointer in an index. This is sort of a hassle and can create some exciting moments for the programmers who have to manage the “forget me” function across distributed indexes and keep the eager beaver crawler from reindexing a content object.

The Google has to provide this type of third party editing for most of the requests from individuals who want one or more documents to be “forgotten”; that is, no longer in the Google index which the public users’ queries “hit” for results.

According to “Google Is Facing a Fight over Americans’ Right to Be Forgotten.” The write up states:

Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director John Simpson wrote to the FTC yesterday, complaining that though Google claims to be dedicated to user privacy, its reluctance to allow Americans to remove ‘irrelevant’ search results is “unfair and deceptive.”

I am not sure how quickly the various political bodies will move to make being forgotten a real thing. My hunch is that it will become an issue with legs. Down the road, the third party editing is likely to be required. The First Amendment is a hurdle, but when it comes times to fund a campaign or deal with winning an election, there may be some flexibility in third party editing’s appeal.

From my point of view, an index is an index. I have seen some frisky analyses of my blog articles and my for fee essays. I am not sure I want criticism of my work to be forgotten. Without an editorial policy, third party, ad hoc deletion of index pointers distorts the results as much, if not more, than results skewed by advertisers’ personal charm.

How about an editorial policy and then the application of that policy so that results are within applicable guidelines and representative of the information available on the public Internet?

Wow, that sounds old fashioned. The notion of an editorial policy is often confused with information governance. Nope. Editorial policies inform the database user of the rules of the game and what is included and excluded from an online service.

I like dinosaurs too. Like a cloned brontosaurus, is it time to clone the notion of editorial policies for corpus indices?

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2015


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