Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Why we cant go down Google memory hole: Don Pittis


In the early 1990s, while doing research for a book in Oxford, I stumbled across a wondrous research tool that told me some unpleasant news about my family.

I thought of that experience when I heard that Europe's top court had ruled that Google and other internet companies must respect the "right to be forgotten" and that they could be ordered to remove some personal information from search engine results.
My research project was only 20 years ago, but in the world of information, it was a different age.
Oxford's Bodleian Library collection was still indexed using a room full of enormous hardcover volumes where librarians pasted in a new entry for each book added to the collection.

Learning the 17th-century methods to make the system work was the first step of any research project.
On a break from my real work, I happened upon the newfangled computerized version of something called Palmer's Index. It came as a revelation.

In 1867, Samuel Palmer, a London bookseller, published a series of volumes painstakingly indexing the pages of the Times of London going back to 1790.

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