Europe’s New “Right to be Forgotten” Concept: What Does It Mean?
Personal privacy has undergone a series of revolutions in recent years as the internet continues to become more and more involved in our everyday lives. The biggest changes can be seen by looking at the younger and older generations; older individuals who have been used to privacy and without advanced technology most of their lives are far different than those who have spent their entire lives online. The recent announcement in the European Union that citizens will now have the right to petition Google to remove content pertaining to them is huge news, but what does it mean? We’ll discuss the implications of this in the following article and outline how the process is expected to work.
Who Can Request Removal and How
As it stands, the law appears to only apply to the person it involves. So for instance, a politician who feels he or she has been unfairly maligned will have to personally petition Google for the removal of the content. If you have a friend and wish to remove information on their behalf, your request will not be considered valid. As far as pinging to Google a request for removal, we are still unsure of how this will work. Since the ruling was just recently issued and Google has not had time to comply yet, we will have to wait to see what specific system Google implements for handling these requests.
How Thorough Is the Removal Process?
For the time being, there are still questions about how many instances – if all – of the content will be removed through such a request. A careful line between personal privacy and censorship is being considered – most people will agree that information that exposes illegal activity, for instance, shouldn’t be purged from the web. Google will have to decide whether the requested removal will only apply to the person’s name, or to all search results. Based on reasonable expectations, the former will be the likely result: the information will still appear in generic searches, but not when specifically looking up a person.
Who Makes the Decision?
Ultimately, it will be the decision of Google and other search engines to remove the content from their listings. A request is filed by the interested party, but that does not guarantee any action will be taken. If Google denies a request for removal and the user disagrees, there will be an appeals process in place that places the request in front of a supervisory or judicial authority. This essentially indicates that there will be at least some form of privacy regulation and arbitration when it comes to disagreements between search engines and users over what information is associated with their names.
The future of what the right to be forgotten concept will create remains to be seen, but we can already begin putting together the pieces. By pinging to Google a request for removal, users will now at least have the option to scrub unflattering or defamatory content from their profiles and from being associated with them, but it is not a guarantee for resolution on the matter. This concept will present an interesting opportunity for evolution in regards to privacy rights and how it is to be balanced with freedom of speech throughout the world.