Is the EU’s “Right to be Forgotten” Ruling Protecting the Wrong People?

scales of justice

In the wake of Tuesday’s ground breaking news that the European Union Court of Justice ruled for a citizens “Right To be Forgotten” on the internet, we are slowly starting to hear rumor of the types of individuals being protected by the ruling.

The BBC has reported today that over half the the RTF requests received by Google have been from convicted criminals, including;

  • A convicted cyberstalker.
  • A man who tried to kill members of his own family.
  • A doctor wanting negative reviews from his patients taken down.
  • A man convicted of possessing child abuse images.

While the law does not require the information to be removed from the originating site, it does require Google pull all links to the offending material from search engine results.

The thought behind the ruling is that you should be able to control what personal information is found through search. On the surface that seems both logical and desirable. In fact the state of California passed a bill dubbed the “Eraser Bill” last year that would allow California teens to ask for the removal of information and images from social media sites. The motivation behind the bill is the though that teenagers should be granted the “folly of youth” without it affecting their future. Much the same as someone who has recovered from a troubled past would not want personal information to be found. Although everyone deserves a second chance, what about those simply looking to game the system or hide relevant, newsworthy information?

While we’re sure there are many legitimate uses for the removal of information requests, we start to enter a grey area as to who and what it should pertain to. If information is outdated, or inaccurate it stands to reason that it would be beneficial to have it removed, but a blanket rule for all could allow for pertinent information to be dropped from the SERPs. There have been many decelerations of concerns over freedom of speech, censorship, and how this will affect modern day journalism.

It’s important to note that the process is not cut and dry. Search Engines do have the right to refuse the applicant request, at which point the applicant would contact their country’s data protection authority.


Comments are closed.