In a recent ruling by the European Union Court of Justice, Google must remove links to irrelevant and outdated personal information from search results upon request by an E.U. Citizen. This ruling was brought on by Mario Gonzales whose property was seized by the Spanish government after failing to pay social security debts. Mr. Gonzales found that a PDF with the listing kept appearing in searches for his name years after he’d paid up. The “right to be forgotten” ruling for Google and other search engines was meant to find a balance between relevant public data and an individual’s right to privacy. Viviane Reding, The European Commissioner for Justice commented “big data needs big rights and the court’s judgment is a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans.”
This will be an obvious headache for Google and other search engines, which will need to comb through thousands, if not millions of individual requests in order to balance public information and a person’s privacy rights. This ruling will ONLY affect search engines and not the publisher that wrote the content in the first place. The ruling punishes search engines, because in the court’s eyes, private and sensitive content would have never been so easily found and readily available. David P. Fidler, professor of law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law commented “we don’t know at the moment in terms of the implications, but that’s why I can imagine Google’s head is spinning. The consequences could be very expensive and very administratively burdensome.”
Coming to America?
This is a result of the EU government coming in and taking charge of personal information, but how does this work in the U.S.? If you’re wealthy enough, you can pay your way to a clean history by hiring an online reputation management company. Companies like Solvera Group are able to remove and suppress links that are harmful to an individual or business. Costs for these services are not cheap and can range between $50,000 to $300,000, but the benefit can be well worth it when managing online reputation.
In a recent money.cnn.com article, Chris Dinota, CEO and Founder of Solvera Group called the EU ruling “fantastic,” and said it will pave the way for similar legal arguments in the United States. “There are even now, valid legal strategies which Solvera has implemented with great success to the benefit of our clients, but this international ruling will hopefully add momentum to the legal debate ongoing in U.S. courts,” he said.
The EU ruling will set a precedent and the first pan-EU data privacy rule, which would also be applicable to overseas companies active in the EU, even if they handled the data on non-EU servers. Other countries, including the U.S might follow suit if The Supreme Court decides to hear similar cases, but this will likely be a far way off. In the meantime, you will have to pay for your privacy.