In May, the Europeon Union Court of Justice (the highest court in Europe) ruled that Google can be required to remove personal information from its search index for those in the UK, who complete the “Right to be Forgotten” request form. While this ruling has no impact on the U.S. search results, it sends a seismic message that governments are placing privacy above all other metrics.
A similar ruling has been in the state of California, called the ‘Eraser Law‘ that allows individuals to have items that happened prior to the age of 18, erased from the search index.
How does the “Right to be Forgotten” ruling work?
So, you might be thinking…. I would love to have my information eliminated from the search index, because I woudl love to have that negative element deleted from the internet. Well unfortunately, the only people eligible to submit a “Right to be Forgotten” request are those who live in the European Union. Simply submitting the form does not guarantee your request will be approved. Additionally, just because it is removed from the search engines does not mean it is removed from the Internet. Articles might still remain on news sites and other publications. It is just removed from the search engines. After you submit your request, it is up to the search engine whether or not they will approve your request. If they deny, you do have the ability to appeal.
What is the point of “Right to be Forgotten?”
The purpose of this ruling is to allow citizens to have items eliminated from the search index for items that happened in the past and have since been resolved. A good example could be a lemon that you sold someone privately many years a go, or a real estate discrepancy that you have already resolved. Chances are, newspapers and other news outlets have covered the story and created pages on their site. We also know that when they hit the Internet, they are there forever, even if you have already resolved the issue.
Historically, when these particular events happened, most individuals and organizations would embark on a reputation management plan to suppress those negative results and promote positive results. Major businesses were built on the ability to perform this exercise effectively.
So has anyone even used this tool?
As expected, many in the European Union has lined up to submit their requests. The individuals submitting requests have ranged from people with serious criminal offenses, to those with very minor offenses they want removed from the Internet. There were 12k requests the first day, and that number quickly ballooned to 41k after 4 short days.
What does this mean for the future of Reputation Management?
So the big question that needs to be asked for this ruling is will it mean anything for the reputation management industry and how this practice is being performed? First of all, this ruling only covers individuals and not corporations. While I know that corporations are made up of many people, you will not be able to file a request to have items removed from a corporation.
Additionally, this ruling puts a higher value on privacy and eliminating the true ‘openness’ of the Internet, but doesn’t completely eliminate the information from the web. The information is still there for those who are able to find it. They are just not able to find it easily via the search engine.
Lastly, this ruling has a very high denial rate. So while many will abandon Reputation Management in the UK in order to take their chances submitting this request, most of the time, they will be getting back on the phone with their Rep Management firm to continue their efforts.
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