Requests to be Forgotten: Now on Google

Search provider now logging users' requests to be forgotten

2 min read
Requests to be Forgotten: Now on Google
Photo-Illustration: Randi Klett; Erasers: Getty Images

Time to do some spring cleaning on your Google vanity search. Tired of looking up your name only to find reminders of past bankruptcies or acrimonious court cases? If you can persuade Google or a European data protection agency that search results about you are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed," then the search provider will have to remove the links. The form for making such requests went up today but the company says it has not yet begun processing them.

The form is a response to a 13 May court ruling that subjects Google's search results to the same data protection rules as other handlers of personal data. Now the company must strike a balance between individual privacy rights and the public value of information an individual requests removed. The Wall Street Journal reports that the firm has formed a committee of outside experts including Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, to help with the decision-making. The WSJ, citing an unnamed source, says that the 28 European Union data authorities will meet in early June to standardize how they will apply the ruling.

That could make Google and other search engine providers' jobs easier by offering a single set of rules. Standardization might also quiet the squawking of experts who warn that the ruling poses "serious technological challenges," (quoted inNBC News) or those who fear “a balkanization of search results” (quoted in The New York Times). Yet Google and other search engines already tailor search results to the country, hardware, and log-in information of the searcher. Google also already has processes in place for responding to millions of YouTube copyright infringement complaints and for the removal of personal details such as financial information or government identification numbers.

The real technical challenges lie in figuring out how to share data on a temporary basis, and to prevent recipients from copying or re-transmitting it, as IEEE Spectrum wrote soon after the ruling. There are billions of dollars waiting for someone who can figure that out. (And perhaps more than $3 billion even for those, such as Snapchat, who've only come close.)

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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