EU “Right To Be Forgotten” Ruling – Shooting The Messenger?

Don't Shoot The Messenger

The recent ruling within the European Union giving people the “right to be forgotten” has had a number of ripple effects.  The onus has been placed on the search engines to review and remove any/all info on a person based on requests from literally anybody with literally any motive for wanting the information removed.  Google has received over 70,000 requests as of this last week ( ).  Microsoft is taking similar steps within the Bing environment to maintain compliance with this ruling.


Although noble in nature – providing folks with some path to follow when untrue or questionable information has been posted about them – this may be the blunt instrument approach: beat on the messenger because that is far easier than finding/correcting the root cause buried in the vast space that is the World Wide Web.  The time, resources and money required to comply with said requests is non-trivial.


Of course that means business opportunities for reputation management companies. It shines a spotlight on the need for reputation management at the source and at the time the information becomes available, rather than band-aiding it later through search engine removal.  The reputation management enterprises now have an additional tool in their tool belt – offering to file, or assisting in the proper creation of, information removal requests on behalf of the interested party.


Compliance is underway at Google and Microsoft, but the debate over the validity of the ruling continues within member countries.  It is a non-trivial issue: 

- Censorship and shutting down people’s access to information on one side;  and

- A person’s right to request deletion of their personal data where it is irrelevant, outdated or inappropriate on the other. 


Consistency is difficult to attain as various search engines setup review committees and panels to decide what goes and what stays as tens of thousands of requests stream in. With the UK Justice Minister likening the situation to Communist China closing down people’s rights to information, this ruling appears far from immutable. 


Look for the debate to rage on and for other parties to jump into the fray on both sides of this privacy conundrum of the digital age.


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Posted in Current Events, Information Technology
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