What The ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Means For Internet Users

by CXOtoday News Desk    May 15, 2014

Right to be forgotten

Even as internet users celebrate the European Court’s recent ruling on the ‘Right to be forgotten’, many analysts believe that it may actually prove to be detrimental in the long term. The European Court of Justice has ruled that an internet search engine (implying ‘Google’) is required to remove links to inaccurate or irrelevant search results.

This means that people will now have the right to ‘scrub their reputations online’ and decide what info about them should be removed from any internet search. Experts say this landmark ruling will force Google and other search engines to delete references to old debts, long-ago arrests and other unflattering episodes.

According to the Court of Justice of the European Union, people should have some say over what information comes up when someone Googles them.

The decision was celebrated by many people as a victory for their privacy rights. However, many experts also warn that it could interfere with the celebrated free flow of information online and lead to censorship.

According to Luca Schiavoni, analyst at Ovum,“This move may sound reassuring for individuals and their personal freedom; however, it also looks difficult to enforce on a large scale, and may be very disruptive for the functioning of search engines going forward.”

Schiavoni continues: “This decision sets a precedent whereby, upon request, search engine providers will have to update their search results when it is found that they point to information that is no longer relevant or accurate with regard to a person.

The Court has argued that, while a search engine cannot be considered as the “controller” of personal data in a third party website, it is a “controller” of the index of the search engine which links key words to the relevant URL addresses; it may technically block certain search results. As such, it has to comply with the obligations of a “data controller” set out in the EC’s Directive on Data Protection of 1995.

“Policy makers in the EU have long advocated for the introduction of a clear “right to be forgotten”, which is included in the draft of the new Data Protection regulation under discussion in the EU Parliament and Council. However, these provisions should only apply to the direct controllers of personal data (e.g. a social network complying with the request to fully delete information related to an account); involving search engines for something they are not directly responsible for is likely to entail a burdensome cost, especially if the amount of requests of erasure should escalate in the future.”

Even though Europe is one of Google’s biggest markets, the decision is not likely to impact the company’s revenues as such. However the company does sound quite unhappy with the decision. “This is a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general,” the company said in a statement.