Google launched an online form for link removal request in the backdrop of a recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union that search engines must remove links to personal information from their results on request. The form has been made available to 28 European Union countries and four neighboring nations. People who want to remove links can fill out this form and will receive a notification from Google when they start processing the request. Reputation management seems to have become easier for netizens with this ruling.
Though Google initiated search removal request under European data protection law, it does not mean that the search engine will immediately remove your link on a request through its online form. Each request will be carefully assessed and the individual’s privacy rights will be balanced with the public’s right to know and distribute information. Google will also check whether the results actually include outdated or irrelevant information about you and whether there is a public interest in the information (for example, a criminal conviction). An advisory committee headed by Google’s chairman is also being set up to review difficult requests and ethical issues. The company says that it is expecting to refine its approach over the coming months.
In addition to getting praise for protecting individual rights, the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling by the European Court of Justice has drawn flak from the people in the U.S. Many Americans believe that such reforms are unnecessary as this provide criminals or corrupt politicians with the opportunity to bury their records. Some think it is unconstitutional as it would violate Google’s freedom of speech.
The search engine giant aims to protect individual rights as well as freedom of speech. It receives thousands of take down requests from companies claiming that Google results linked to material that infringes on copyrights as well as from governments to take down links.
Reputation Management Services are Still Relevant
Critics point out that while the ruling forces Google to remove links to unbecoming material, it cannot force the actual publisher of the information to remove it from the Web. In other words, the material will still be available online. That’s one reason why reputation management services are still relevant.
According to the Google spokesperson, the search removal request can used by Europeans, expatriates living in Europe and people living abroad, but have family or strong business connections in the continent. People in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland can apply for link removal though they are not the part of the European Union technically. Even though it is possible for those who living outside Europe can make request in a different form, the search engine giant is not legally obliged to take necessary actions or make the changes.
Lawyers in Canada believe this cannot be implemented in Canadian law, because the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms "has a guarantee of freedom of expression" which means that Canadians do not have a guarantee of their right to be forgotten.