Google forget me nots
In 2014 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated that links to content that is “outdated, irrelevant or otherwise inadequate” should not appear when a specific search – usually a person’s name – is made.
Soon after this ruling, Google adopted a complaints procedure allowing people to request the removal from its search index any type of information about them which could arguably fall within the guidelines set by the ECJ, above. If Google, after considering the complaint, decides it is valid then it will remove the information from its search index and notify the website hosting the information. This process has become known as the “Google right to be forgotten”.
So, does this mean you can now just delete information about you from Google? The simply answer is – maybe but be very cautious.
We have been wary about this ruling and procedure from the outset. It is widely viewed as a controversial decision by the ECJ and Google has come under criticism for the seemingly rigid way it is following the decision.
Many of the press have spoken out to complain that the ruling infringes on free speech and that greater care should be given to the public's right to remember old news stories. Some media outlets, for example the BBC and the Telegraph, have gone even further than this and are actively publishing the content from their websites that Google have removed from its search engines, if it believes the information is being wrongly hidden.
Before you even consider using Google’s removal tool please do come and talk to us. Using the Google removal can backfire spectacularly. Media outlets often feel that people are trying to side-step their processes and procedures by approaching Google and they may try to make an example of your case if they feel the request is misplaced and the information should remain searchable online. This can then generate further negative press - which is of course the complete opposite of the result you are trying to achieve. There have been numerous examples of this happening since the Google complaint procedure was introduced, in addition to news outlets actively publishing details of hidden content, there was a prominent example involving Bolton News.
They received a notification from Google to say they would be removing from their search index an article from Bolton News' website about a case involving three men who were jailed after attacking a group of soldiers in 2010. Bolton News disagreed with Google’s decision and as a result wrote a new article on the subject focusing on the fact that someone had requested it be removed, leaving the complainer with another article to add to a future request as well as putting the four year old story back on the news agenda.
This is not to say the ruling cannot be used on occasion but it must be used correctly and, we would argue, be aimed at the media outlet itself rather than a "back door" approach to Google – it is not a remedy for embarrassing or misleading information, or information that is in the public interest.
If an issue arises then come to us first - we will assess the situation and go through your options with you. If the information is truly irrelevant and outdated then we can approach the Media Outlet directly (most of whom, in the UK, we know well). We have already successfully done this for a young sportsman and believe this is the best practice approach in most circumstances.