A massive decision was stricken down from the highest court of the EU. Essentially, if you are a person (not a company) and you wish for information about you not to show up on the web, Search Engines must de-index it from their results. We are not the first to write about the topic, it is in everywhere from Search Engine Land to the Wallstreet Journal. However, we wanted to go into some possible implications about search engine general, and possible exploits of such a massive ruling.
First off, the ruling was based off of a law WAY before the internet was ever conceived. It is based off of a legal backing called “The Right To Be Forgotten”, born out of German and French honor-based dueling. Totally random, but apparently strong enough of a court to make a decision this strong.
There is no discussion yet on how this will be enforced, but it seems unlikely that Google will ever be able to reverse the decision. So how they, and other search engines, comply with it, and in what detail, will remain to be seen.
If you are in the United States, you most likely are out of luck. Unfortunately website operators still have protection under section 230 absolving them from any liabilities from their users. It could change, but unlikely anytime soon.
We wonder how people might be able to exploit such a ruling? Here are some questions that need pondering:
1. Aggressive SEOs might be able to comment on articles and posts of their competition. In these comments, use a real persons name. Then this real person gets the site removed from the “Right To Be Forgotten” clause. The site goes away, removing one competitor from above you!
2. Dual Citizens – I know a lot of people that hold dual citizenship. Can these people use Dual Citizenship to remove negative articles about themselves in Google all together? From what I understand, Google would have to de-index it everywhere. If this is the case, expect a flurry of lawyers figuring out ways to offer citizenship in obscure little countries like Cyprus and Croatia. Need negative articles removed? No problem, just sign up for citizenship abroad!
3. Facilitation – How would Google even facilitate and organize such a massive burden? I am sure that the courts will specify guidelines, but Google and the other search engines would need tens of thousands of people to verify requests.
It is going to be an interesting year. Google will hide behind things like “Censorship”, however, I feel strongly that people have the right to be forgotten. There are so many instances where peoples lives have been ruined from false or outdated / misinformation published on the web.
It will surely be something we track and will update you all on.