Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ rule has recently come under scrutiny, with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) threatening legal action.
The rule was created in May last year and in its initial 12 months, around 150 companies complained to the ICO. Of the rejections from Google, the ICO disagreed with 25%. Deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith explained that negotiations will continue, but it could result in legal proceedings if it remains unresolved.
Speaking to the Times, Smith said: “As with any data controller, we try and resolve the complaint by a process of discussion… before we resort to our legal powers”.
What is the ‘right to be forgotten’?
This is a rule which allows individuals and companies to request the removal of a page from Google’s rankings due to inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive information about them. Across Europe, Google has received requests to remove nearly one million links in the last 12 months – 37,000 of which were from Britain. It has an acceptance rate of around accepting around 41% and removing over 260,000 links from its searches in that time.
At the moment, the rule only exists in Europe, so if someone were to search on google.com then the deleted results would appear. The rule works well for businesses and individuals who may have false information published about them or outdated, excessive content appears in their search results. This, of course, is bad publicity for them so they surely deserve an opportunity to argue against the negative links.
While many individuals and businesses can use the tool for a speedy clean-up of its search results by removing outdated and inaccurate threads, others have attempted to exploit the judgement.
The Daily Mail has had articles removed by people from Google’s search results, including a May 2009 article describing the sordid captivity in which Josef Fritzl kept his family, and an April 2013 article claiming that a ten-year-old girl “could have died if her parents had relied on the NHS 111 helpline”.
These are examples of stories which remain relevant in the present day, despite being old news articles and indicate a potential flaw in Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ rule.
Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid warned last November that people including terrorists were trying to use the ruling to wipe stories about their trials. In his speech to newspaper editors in Southampton, Javid said: “Google has been receiving a demand for deletion every 90 seconds.
“Each day, a thousand requests pour in from people who, for one reason or another, would prefer their pasts to be kept secret… Criminals are having their convictions airbrushed from history even if they have since committed other, similar crimes.
“The ‘right to be forgotten’ is censorship by the back door. Stories are not being deleted from archives because of the ruling, but if they cannot be found by the search engines they may as well not be there at all.”
Right to be forgotten or right to remember?
Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales also labelled the rule “unforgivable censorship”, saying the public had a “right to remember”.
“We are on a path to secret, online sanitation of truthful information,” said Geoff Brigham, general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation. Both were speaking at Wikipedia’s first transparency report in London.
“No matter how well it may be intended, it is compromising human rights, the freedom of expression and access to information, and we cannot forget that” added Brigham.
Is it manipulation? Or is it a right that we all have to protect our reputation? What is certain is that the ruling needs clear guidelines and a precedent to be set so that a fair, equal law is in place to protect people in an increasingly important part of the public sphere.
What do I need to submit a request?
To submit a right to be forgotten request to Google, you will need the following:
- An EU passport or driving license to prove you are the individual that the link relates to (you can submit on behalf of others).
- The full web address of the link you are requesting to be removed from the search results.
- The search term i.e. your name.
- A reason aligned to the EU ruling why you feel the link is ‘irrelevant’, ‘outdated’ or ‘not in the public interest’.
You only get one chance to send the link to Google, so it’s important to get your request right. The Igniyte team are specialists in Online Reputation Management with a long, successful track record. We also tailor our services specifically to you, so we can get the best solution for you.
How Igniyte works with businesses
Igniyte works with companies globally, supporting them to establish appropriate strategies designed to help them maintain and manage their social media profiles, and to implement effective social media customer response strategies. We work with you to establish a customer service channel that represent your business, as well as helping you to develop strategies to tailor your response to customers.
We work with businesses and brands to monitor search results for key terms. This process helps ensure that a company is presented fairly and accurately online. We also provide staff training so you can implement the process internally for the long term.
You can find out more by downloading our free Guide to Building Your Company Reputation Online or contact Simon on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 or email [email protected]. All enquiries are dealt with in confidence.