Yesterday (5/13/2014), Europe’s highest court issued a ruling that may force Google to remove references to long-forgotten debts, arrests, or unbecoming events. This is good news for anybody constantly monitoring their Google search results and trying to manage their online reputation. This decision will allow many to take more ownership over the first page of search results for their name or their business’ brand.
The unappealing ruling applies to 500 million people in the 28-nation bloc, and applies to other major search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Although this has no immediate effect on US Google search results, this is a major step towards increasing the ability for people to control and manage their online reputations and Google search results. Many people have at least one line returned on a Google search for their own or their business’ name that they’d like disappeared – the ability to do so may be closer than we think.
To be clear, one cannot simply remove a search results that they believe is damaging. The ruling states that search engines must listen and sometimes comply when individuals or businesses ask for the removal of outdated or questionable information about themselves.
“The right to be forgotten,” is the reasoning behind the Court of Justice of the European Union in this matter. Google search results have become so powerful that it believes people should have more control over what they look online and that outdated or slanderous results may not fairly depict those searched.
Although this may make it easier for those to practice online reputation management and search engine optimization freely, some think this may lead to censorship and interfere with the free flow of information on the Internet.
Some bound forms of a “right to be forgotten” exist in the United States. In the matters of both bankruptcy regulations and crimes committed by minors, it is usually required that records be expunged in some way after the fact. However, the burden currently falls on whoever published the information, usually a government — not on search engines.
With the “right to be forgotten” affecting online reputations in Europe, who’s to say the U.S. and other areas of the world aren’t next? We may soon be closer to having more control over personal Google results, a positive step for individuals, businesses, and organizations who rely on how they look online to be successful. For now, keep monitoring your reputation and that of your business or organization; controlling your online branding can be the difference between success and failure.
For some people, how they’re perceived online can make all the difference in their careers. What does a Google search for your name or your business look like?