Right To Be Forgotten? Google Gets Bloody Nose In Privacy Case
May 14th, 2014 by Karl Sharpe
Everyone has googled themselves at some point haven’t they? Most people are very fortunate to not have had sites set up for the sole purpose of insulting them or have had ‘embarrassing’ pictures of themselves spread all over the world. But for some, this is reality and with the internet as it currently stands, once something is out there it stays out there.
This might be about to change. The EU court has stated that everyone has a ‘right to be forgotten’. According to the Guardian story, this case was brought to the European Union’s court of justice against Google Spain by Mario Costeja Gonzalez. Mr Gonzalez failed to get some details around the auction notice of a repossessed home deleted. He essentially argued that, after the house had been auctioned to recover social security debts, the matter was resolved and should no longer be linked to him whenever his name was entered into Google.
We can assume that Google, who aren’t particularly approachable when it comes to search results, were not much of a help to Mr Gonzalez at that time. But it appears that they may have to start putting an apparatus in place for this type of request. Without getting into complex legalese, the judges have established that companies such as Google should be regarded as a ‘data controller’ under data protection laws in countries where they promote and sell advertising.
Essentially this could mean that you could call Google and ask them to remove old and irrelevant links that relate to your identity. This is potentially a very tricky area for search engines to navigate. How should each case be judged? How legally actionable do you leave yourself if you don’t comply with a request? It’s a sticky area that Google have found themselves in.
It could be argued that Google have already set themselves up as the arbiter of what’s worth looking at on the internet. By eliminating websites they deem unworthy, they already leave themselves open to people that want search engines to go even further. It’s not like search engines have never done this. Yahoo and Google, arguably, cooperated with state censorship in China. But reacting to requests from individuals opens up a whole new can of worms.
What it means for businesses?
In all likelihood it probably does not mean a great deal. But the wider implications of it will be interesting to see. It’s this sort of ruling that tends to change how Google operates on a larger scale and rather than responding to all sorts of individual requests, they may implement a bulk solution that affects everyone. It’s impossible to downplay what a logistical nightmare this could prove to be for Google and it will be very interesting to see what occurs…
What it means for SEO?
At the moment, nothing. If a ruling such as this changes the way that Google crawls web content then this could be significant. Perhaps they could try to angle Google + as ‘your Google editing console’ so you can flag bad mentions of your name and data? Until the legal dance stops we doubt we will see any significant changes. But it could be very interesting…