Your right to be forgotton online

Google HomeFrom Friday Google have made a form available where you can request “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate” information about yourself to be removed from search results.

If there’s an online embarrassing photo from your college days, or that hen and stag party photo you think your potential new employer may think doesn’t fit with their company ethos, you can now request it be hidden from view, at least as far as Google is concerned.

It comes after a case bought by a Spaniard who objected to information about his house repossession appearing online. Following the case on the 13th of May the EU Court of Justice ruled that certain types of links should be removed from search engines if the affected person so requested.

What this means is that if there’s a link about you on the Internet you can ask Google not to display it. What it does not mean is that the link itself will disappear – it’ll still be searchable on other search engines (unless you put in a request in to every search engine) and by typing in the URL directly. The information won’t even disappear from Google entirely, just your localised version of Google in whichever country you reside!

There’s a question of what’s in the public interest and when information you should be allowed to have removed from public view. For instance if it’s an article published by a recognised news source it’s unlikely that it’ll be removed from Google search, whereas if it’s an article on your ex partners website it probably will qualify.

The BBC reports that currently more than half the requests for removal sent to Google so far have involved convicted criminals.

Each request for removal will be viewed by a real person who will make a decision, and links will start to be removed from Google search by mid June.

What’s potentially the most important part of this development isn’t for Google who can afford the cost, but for new start up search engines who could end up being inundated by criminals wanting to suppress all stories about their former activities.

The only safe way to view the Internet however is if you don’t want it online don’t post it and don’t have friends who are likely to post dodgy pictures or stories about you.