Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » How much control should you have over your Web profile?


A professor from another state recently visited our newspaper ethics board meeting to plead his case for Internet privacy and justice.

The professor was alarmed to find a two-decade-old Victoria Advocate article suddenly appeared in a Google search of his name. The article, written by the Associated Press, was about an incident that occurred elsewhere in Texas. The professor, then a school teacher, was accused of a crime. (I am omitting other details about the case to protect the identity of the professor.)

The charges were later dropped, and the teacher's court record expunged. If you search the courts for his name, he told us, you won't find any trace of the case.

In the time before Google, anyone searching for information about the incident would have to plow through microfilm copies of newspapers. Now, it's all there at your fingertips.

Increasingly, the subjects of stories are asking newspapers to remove published content from their Web sites. Kathy English, public editor at the Toronto Sun, recently researched this issue and wrote a report called "The Longtail of News."

In most cases, editors surveyed by English said they wouldn't unring the bell of history. However, many also said they could envision exceptions such as if a story turned out to be inaccurate or unfair.

I'll write more in my next post about our discussion with the professor.