From old arrest records to inappropriate college party photos – seems like every day a CEO or celebrity is making apologies for past, bad behavior. Most of the time it’s simply embarrassing for a week and then the world moves on. But we’ve seen cases where past misdeeds have resulted in forced resignations and customer boycotts.
And though it’s usually the big chiefs we hear about, there are plenty of little fish getting caught in the old news net. Is it fair to judge a person by their past behavior? What if they’ve since moved on to bigger and better things? What if those old news stories turned out not to be true?
Europe’s top court recently decided that to forgive is divine but to be forgotten is the law.
The”European Data Protection law” says that certain people can ask search engines to remove results that include their name and is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”
If you’re serving time for an armed robbery you committed last week, Google doesn’t have to remove the news stories that covered the crime.
But imagine you’re trying to start a new business and the first thing that comes up when people search your name are news reports of a messy ten-year-old divorce. It’s distracting and potentially harmful to your career – especially if you’re a wedding planner.
The trouble with the law is that there are no hard and fast rules about what can be expunged and what can’t. If you want to give it a shot, Google has a form you can fill out and submit with a copy of your legal I.D..
To prevent fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information, we need to verify identity. Please attach a legible copy of a document that verifies your identity (or the identity of the person whom you are authorized to represent, as well as proof of your authorization). The document does not need to be a government-issued ID or passport. You may obscure parts of the document (e.g., numbers) as long as the remaining information identifies you. Google will use this information solely to help us authenticate your request and will delete the copy within a month of closing your removal request case except as required by law. *
See, that’s the trouble with things like this. Right away, people see it as a means of harming others – though I can’t imagine how removing a piece of information would be harmful but if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Also note that right now, this only applies to Google in Europe. Even if they grant your wish, the data will still show on the good old, US-based Google.com. And there’s no guarantee that the US won’t choose to implement a similar law. I can’t see the Supreme Court taking this on when there are so many other internet issues to be settled.
The “right to be forgotten” law was designed as a means of legally helping people with a legitimate claim get past it and get on with their lives. Unfortunately, Google’s reporting system is probably already bogged down with 1,000’s of people who want to remove photos of themselves with their old girlfriends before they propose to girlfriend number 10.
What do you think? Good idea? Good idea but too hard to implement or bad idea all around?