The Internet may have just gotten a little friendlier for a lot of people with the implementation of the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF). In May the EU Court of Justice ruled that anyone or business have the right to request the removal of information they deem to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” from search engine results with the hope of making any unflattering images, reviews or comments a thing of the past aiding in their online reputation management and overall online footprint.
The big news today is that something seemingly aimed at Google is now being implemented by Bing and Yahoo search engines as well. As Google still represents the highest search activity with 67%, it comes as no surprise that the search engine giant would see an enormous 174,000 requests for removal since the ruling contrary to Bing, which only received 699 requests. Microsoft ensured the public that since the ruling they have been working diligently to process requests relating primarily to individual privacy concerns with over 70 completed as of November 5th, 2014. Microsoft then went on to say that although complying with the European data protection authorities, they have found it difficult to find “…a satisfactory balance between individual privacy and the public’s interest in free expression”.
The European public has wasted no time in exercising this right with requests of removal coming from all walks for various circumstances. A woman in Germany and victim of a sexual crime requested an article about the crime (which appears when her name is searched) be removed to which search engines obliged. In another case a pianist from Croatia is requesting a less than complimentary review of his work, is finding it a lot more challenging to wipe the slate clean with this unflattering article still high in search rankings. The trouble comes when search engines are forced to choose between being a pianist’s PR professional or maintaining integrity of content, self-expression and the publics right to unbiased information.
Here’s the major flaw in the ruling: it is strictly a European one at the moment which means two things for individuals and businesses: the less than desirable information is still available to international audiences outside of Europe across all search engines no problem. The second, when a link has been removed the search engine will indicate such ultimately prompting viewers to search through international search engines for the information, which is likely still available, so European audiences simply have to visit the American (or other) search engine site to view the missing information.
The ruling has seen its fair share of criticism in that search engines hold too much power but the following of Bing and Yahoo indicate the seriousness of the matter and the unlikelihood of this being overruled or changed anytime soon.