I hadn't known about the "right to be forgotten" until Europe's top court ruled last week that Google was required to remove links from its search engine upon an individual's request.
A new right! I should be happy.
According to the court ruling, people are entitled to shape what is seen about them on the search engine, our collective memory aide.
The ruling won't affect U.S. Google users, yet it could spur calls here for "right to be forgotten" reforms.
While being able to selectively erase people's memories has a utopian appeal, I worry about another long-held right, one that isn't in the U.S. Constitution either -- my Right to Google.
Like many people, I feel entitled to find out stuff about people without them controlling the experience.
Googling someone is what we do before and after we meet potential baby sitters, tax preparers, gardeners, mayoral candidates, karate instructors, long-lost friends -- in other words, everyone. Often it's a frivolous pursuit, but it can cough up critical information that can change the course of lives.
"There is a marquee quality about the top 10 links," said Jonathan Zittrain, professor at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. "One or two search engines hold the power to define you. This is your background check."
If someone can erase unsavory parts of themselves on the search engine, Googling, or as Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt put it, "the right to know," could be at risk.
Most of us of course don't just stop with Google. We also scour Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to check each other out.
But those services let people shape their images. Google, in contrast, seems indifferent, although there are some ways to adjust the results.
"Most users don't understand that search results are not the truth," said Jonah Stein, founder of ItsTheRoi, a search engine marketing company. "If you can hire people, you can manipulate it."
But that's going to cost you. Currently, individuals and corporation can pay search engine reputation companies to improve what is seen in Google results.
The European ruling offers an alternative for individuals, Stein said.
In the European court case, a Spaniard complained that when his name was Googled, it linked to an old newspaper article about his long-resolved legal troubles.
The court said the article could stay, but the link from Google had to be deleted.
"It is about protecting yourself, and having a bit of privacy," said Michael Fertik, chief executive of Reputation.com, who welcomed the ruling. "Now you have a different way to address your Google problem."
Some described the ruling as akin to saying a book can stay in the library, but the index to find it has to be ripped up. Now a person has to go to the library to find the book, effectively. That reminds me of the bad old days when information was harder to find.
My inconvenience, Fertik said, is less important than the suffering of people who are grappling with Google results that forever link them to old court cases and bankruptcy filings, as well as mean things an ex-spouse blogged years ago. This can be painful and damaging.
"You may have to be a little less lazy," Fertik said. "You may have to go three websites. You may have to go to the library again. On the other hand if you are someone being attacked, your life, income and livelihood is under threat."
Mug shots are a good example of the problems of information in the digital era. They are public, but are often unseen especially if an arrestee isn't well-known and isn't charged. Some websites, however, collect and publish arrestees' mug shots and then offer to remove them for a fee. Last year, Google tweaked its algorithm to lower the links to these websites in a person's Google results.
Given the gravity that Google results can have on a person's life, perhaps the answer is to give everyone control of the first few pages, as long as it's clearly labeled, Zittrain suggested.
That sounds fine if it makes people feel better.
But if the right to be forgotten is established in the U.S., thus trumping the right to know, I'm not sure where I'll turn. Yes, I can go to the library and courthouse, but I won't do that to find out a little more about a new neighbor.
It wouldn't be Information Armageddon but Googling -- the liberating feeling that you can find out something quickly by typing in a few words in a search engine -- wouldn't be the same.