Google Right To Be Forgotten Stirs Memories

Earlier this month I wrote a piece about Google and the so-called “right to be forgotten” in Europe. Essentially the European Union (EU)  had allowed a judgment that said if someone asked for a piece of history about themselves to be taken out of search engines – effectively erasing it from history – then Google had to comply.

The wrinkle that emerged earlier this month was that a BBC journalist I happen to respect, Robert Peston, had seen a piece taken out of search results and commented on it. I wondered whether Google, which opposed the move in the first place, had withdrawn this piece so publicly just to reignite the debate.

Now it turns out there is more.

Right To Be Remembered

Google, which is meeting with the EU at the moment, confirms that it has had over 90,000 requests to take information off its search results and agreed to about half of them.

The unlooked-for thing is what’s happening to some of the sites that are being removed. Basically, Google is informing people that their pages are being hidden from searchers’ view so they’re writing about it when they can. This in turn gives the ‘hidden’ facts more prominence.

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario. I’m 49 years old (this is simple fact) and I want investment in my new business (this is fictional). So I’m involved in interviews and presentations but I find that my friend ex-Frank, of 30 or more years’ standing, has published pictures of me drunk at a party from my student days (I will leave you to guess whether this happened or not)*.

So I apply, successfully, to have them taken off Google on the grounds that they’re out of date and irrelevant. BUT…Google tells Frank. And Frank tells the media. So there’s suddenly a flurry of “Guy gets drunken pictures taken off Google” stories (or there would be if I were someone about whom this would actually matter). And the thing I was trying to prevent people finding out suddenly has a lot more prominence than it did.

The impact on small business is considerable. This affects America as well as Europe because it means searches on companies and individuals will tell a different truth in different parts of the world, which can’t be right.

It also means, though, that if you as an individual or business felt that there was something out there that was no longer relevant, trying to hide it might have exactly the opposite effect.

* It’s fictional. I don’t have an ex-friend called Frank.

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

English: Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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