The Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) has existed in Europe since 2014 when it was first defined by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It applies to residents of the twenty-eight EU member countries, as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Anyone located in one of these countries can make a request to be forgotten or authorise a third party to do so. The vast majority of requests are made concerning ‘private personal information’ (95.6 percent according to 2015 data from the Guardian) and the approval rate for these types of requests is slightly under 50 percent. Requests made for other reasons, such as ‘serious crime’, ‘child protection’, ‘public figure’ or ‘political reasons’ are even less likely to be successful.
According to Google, over the past three years the company has evaluated 720,000 RTBF claims with requests to delete more than 2 million links. About 43 percent of the total requests have been granted, with the links being successfully delisted on Google’s European search index. This means the content will no longer appear to users searching through Google UK or another European version; however they will still be visible to researchers running a search through Google.com or a version outside of Europe. Additionally, Google places a disclaimer at the bottom of the page explaining that one or more results have been removed in response to a complaint, so it will be obvious to someone searching your name that changes have been made. Currently, RTBF only applies to search engines, so the original media source for the material remains unchanged.
How to Make an RTBF Request
A removal request must be made through Google’s official form titled ‘EU Privacy Removal’ and the form must be accompanied by a photo ID of the person about whom the request is being made. There is space to request removal of one or more URLs on the form; however all requests must be made for a single name, so you will have to choose the most commonly used version of your name. The writer must provide a reason for removal, specifically why the link is ‘irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate’ as it was defined in the original 2014 ruling from the CJEU.
What Criteria Does Google Use?
In analysing whether a request is justified, Google claims to balance ‘access to information with an individual’s right to privacy’. Decisions are made on a case by case basis. If the link concerns information about professional activity, it’s unlikely to be granted since this type of information is considered important to future customers or employers. Requests may also be refused because you have a public personae or the topic is in the public interest.
In the past, Google has had considerable liberty in deciding the validity of an RTBF request. However there are several current cases which could change this and make RTBF more extensive. The first is an appeal to the CJEU which challenges Google’s decision with regard to four French individuals. A favourable ruling would mean that any request to remove legally published ‘sensitive personal data’ (things like political affiliation or previous criminal conviction) would be categorically granted without being subject to a public interest test. The second is being considered by the French Conseil d’État. It would require that links be removed from every Google search engine, not just the European network. Google has made it harder to reach Google.com from Europe; however without global removal, the content remains accessible.
An RTBF request can be a valuable reputation management tool for some ReputationDefender clients, but it’s not a replacement for positive content. Even if removal is successful, the negative information is almost certain to reappear from a new source or through an archived copy. Defining yourself through a well-built profile will ensure that these types of results don’t gain momentum and damage your reputation.
Do you have the Right To Be Forgotten