Europe Forcing Google’s Right to Be Forgotten – A Mistake?

Google doesn’t know everything about you, but presumably it can find almost everything about you online. For some people, that’s a problem. The “Google Right to be Forgotten” ruling in Europe is designed to remedy that.

GoogleGoogle’s privacy battles in Europe are at a very different stage than they are in the U.S. In case you missed it last month, Europe’s highest court ruled that citizens must have the right to have information about them excluded from search results – not erased from the internet – but merely rendered invisible in Google’s search results pages (SERPs).

The distinction here is an important one. If someone publishes something about you online – on a news site, blog, company page or official government site – you don’t have much control over that content. If what is written is false or misleading, you might be able to get it deleted. If what is written is true, no way you’re getting it deleted. The same goes for social media.

Europe’s move to force Google to de-index some results, based on individual requests and not related to whether the original web publisher could or should be compelled to take down the info, was applauded by many. Even Barbara Walters agreed with the idea, although she didn’t understand the issue completely. New data shows that this might not be such a great idea.

For parents, if the U.S. or whatever country you’re in moves in a similar direction, there are implications for your kids, particularly teens. Sure, if something “bad” about your teen is on the internet (an underage drinking charge, for example), you’d rather Google not make it easy for others to find it. That’s reasonable, as is having an overall online reputation management strategy, but it’s not the only consideration.

Since the ruling on May 13th, Google reports that it has received 41,000 requests to de-index search results for individuals. The shocker, and what parents need to know, is that 12% of those requests come from persons connected to child pornography arrests.

Google may have a way to selectively choose which requests it complies with, but there’s no guarantee of that. There’s also no guarantee that Europe’s interpretation of the law will allow for any judgment calls. It may be better for all if the system remains as is here in the U.S. If something untrue is published, you can go after to publisher. If it is true, society is probably best served by leaving the search results unbiased. We shouldn’t be protecting the bad guys.


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