A week has passed since a Europe Union (EU) court established ‘the right to be forgotten,’ and news sources are now suggesting that Google has already been flooded with complaints. What does this mean for the right to be forgotten in online reputation management, going forward?

The Case that Established the Ruling

Last week the highest EU court – the European Court of Justice – ruled against Google and established that ordinary users have a ‘right to be forgotten’ in search engine results, when the information in question is ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant’.

The case that established the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling, was that of Spanish man Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who expressed concern that a search for his name brought up two news stories dating back to 1998, which chronicled the auction of his real estate to pay off social security debts.

Google have decried the ruling as an attempt at censorship, but nevertheless have been reported to be constructing a new tool to implement the right to be forgotten throughout EU countries. It seems, however, that people who wish to be forgotten on the search engine are not waiting.

A Misunderstanding of the Ruling

Multiple news sources including The Telegraph report that within hours of the ruling going public, Google was flooded with removal requests. However it seems that there’s a lack of understanding among the general public over what may  be removed.

Notably requests are coming partially from convicted criminals, as well as politicians. There seems to be a misunderstanding over the necessary conditions of the ruling. The EU Court of Justice did make an exception for information online that is in the public interest. Information on Google about politicians, who represent the people, and criminals with unspent convictions, who arguably represent a risk to the people, are clearly in the public interest.

The Logistics of the Right to Be Forgotten

There are also the practicalities to contend with. There is a reason that Google is currently building a tool to process these requests – they don’t have the resources to do so at present, which means that any expectations over the ruling, in the short term, are likely to prove a huge disappointment.

The Telegraph article sums up the logistics argument perfectly, stating that: ‘Sources at the world’s biggest search company say they are yet to figure out how to deal with the expected flood of expected requests and will need to build up an “army of removal experts” in each of the 28 European Union countries, including those where Google does not have operations.’

The ‘right to be forgotten’ is a landmark ruling that is sure to reverberate online for years to come, however in the short term it is unlikely to yield significant results in online reputation management. In order to lodge a successful claim, you must understand the terms upon which you can do so, and no claim can be successful until Google actually have the capacity to process and deal with it.

To find out more about ‘right to be forgotten’ removals contact Caroline Skipsey on email: [email protected] or phone: +44 (0) 203 542 8682.