In a landmark decision, the highest court in the European Union ruled that Google must remove links to personal information from search results. The ruling allows users to request which links they’d like Google to remove and Google must honor these requests, unless there are “particular reasons” not to, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said.
So what does this mean? The Internet was founded on the free-flow of information. This flow has lead to unflattering, irrelevant, and even libelous content showing up in search results of individuals. The ruling wasn’t specific on which of the aforementioned types of search results could be removed, but many are interpreting the ruling liberally, and with concern.
Harvard Law and computer science professor Jonathan Zittrain said, “Some will see this as corrupting. Others will see it as purifying. I think it’s a bad solution to a very real problem, which is that everything is now on our permanent records.”
The intent of the ruling is understandable. No one wants libelous content posted about them online. It’s also fair for a 40 year old adult to not want photos of them drunk from a college party showing up in search results. The same can be said of a decades old tax lien or bankruptcy. But at what point do you draw the line? At what point can people start manipulating search results by removing relevant and important data about them? Perhaps people with power with something to hide?
How will this affect in the US? As of now, it won’t, because of the First Amendment. That said, the story is certainly drumming up interest in the US. For now, there are companies such as Reputation.com that help people improve their search engine reputation and imprint.
The big loser here is Google. Time will tell how this works out, but we’ll keep an eye on the latest news.