News that Apple is making a search engine to rival Google – which currently has more than 86 per cent of the UK search market – makes us wonder if they will adhere to the GDPR thereby respecting people’s privacy. We have seen that Google have a cavalier attitude to privacy rights, and fight hard to keep out-dated, irrelevant and inaccurate URLs on their search engine. We have to ask the Information Commissioner’s office (ICO) to rule far too often that these URLs breach data protection rules and should be removed.
The reason that Google are so slack about adhering to data protection laws is that it is easier and cheaper to keep the status quo than make positive changes. Let’s be clear, Google is a great tool for researching facts and information, but it also provides links to information that may be malicious, inaccurate and out-dated. This information – and mis-information – can make people’s lives and livelihoods harder and more miserable.
For example, prospective employers often use Google to search background details about a job seeker’s character, and the contents may tilt a decision against someone on no more than the thought that “this looks like too much trouble” or “there’s no smoke without fire”. Unhelpful URLs can ruin people’s job prospects particularly if they have committed a crime or other misdemeanour years ago. The same goes for people who are seeking insurance, want to buy a house, open a bank account or go to college.
Google’s favourite excuse for allowing this to continue is that information is in the public interest. Yet it is parliament, not Google, that determines the public interest, and parliament passed the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act nearly 50 years ago to allow those with a spent sentence to be able to live their lives as though they had never committed an offence. This, our elected representatives believe, is in the public interest because it allows people who have made mistakes in the past to re-join society and make a positive contribution. This is often made impossible by Google searches that constantly bring up outdated URLs.
Google’s real interest is not the public interest, but their own bottom line. Let’s hope that if Apple develops a search engine, they will adopt a more responsible attitude than their would-be rival. The competition will be interesting.