Fill Out One Form, And Google Will Forget You Ever Existed
If you'd ever wished you could change your Internet footprint, here's your chance: The Court of Justice of the European Union recently ruled that people have the "right to be forgotten" on Google. So, starting this week, Google is providing a request form to all members of the EU who want certain information removed from the search results of their names. Unless there are "particular reasons" not to, Google must take down personal information that is deemed "inadequate, irrelevant" or "excessive." All you need to do is fill out this simple Google doc and any damaging or embarrassing search history is, well, history.
Understandably, executives at Google aren't thrilled with the decision. The company sees it as a violation of freedom of expression, and called it "a disappointing ruling for search engines and online publishers in general." However, Google plans to comply with the ruling, and will individually assess each request.
According to the request form, here's what Google will be looking fo.
When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information — for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.
Although the ruling only applies to the 28 countries of the European Union, the court case sparked a debate here in the United States: Do we have the right to be forgotten, or should we always be privy to the free-flow of information that the Internet allows?
Defenders of Google and critics of the ruling say that the right to be forgotten could be harmful, as it may lead to convicted criminals removing their crimes from the public eye. For instance, a convicted pedophile requested to have his child abuse history erased, while an ex-politician seeking reelection asked to remove articles about his past behavior in office, according to the BBC.
Google UK and Google Ireland also released some stats on the removal requests they received since the ruling: 31 percent were for fraud and scam-related incident, while 20 percent were for violent or serious crime arrests. Another 12 percent were for child pornography arrests.
However, it's unlikely removal requests for pedophilia and other violent crimes will be granted. As Eric Posner recently pointed out in Slate, the right to be forgotten on Google will work similarly to suing a newspaper for publishing private information that can damage one's reputation or employment prospects.
What are some examples of right to be forgotten-worthy requests? An adulterous affair, past bankruptcies, misdemeanors or crimes committed as a minor, for starters. Additionally, links to events or incidents in the past will be more likely to be deemed "irrelevant" to one's current life.
Interesting enough, it looks like European celebrities are the ones who are most excited about the right to be forgotten on Google. According to Google CEO Larry Page, public figures are rushing to fill out the request forms to scrub embarrassing information from the Internet. However, Page said in an interview with Financial Times that "everyday people" have more of a right — and a need — to remove damaging links from the search engine.