It’s been nearly a year since the EU passed its “Right to Be Forgotten” law (RTBF). Under the law Google established an application process for Europeans to get information about them expunged from searches, if it met certain criterion. So how have those requests been going? Well, decide for yourself: Google has denied 70 percent of them.
The figure comes from an advocacy site run by a European reputation management company. Google has received more than a quarter of a million RTBF requests, and by the company’s count over two thirds of them have been rejected.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. The majority of RTBF claims (58 percent) are “invasion of privacy” claims, according to the same source. These are the hardest claims to prove. The implication is that most of the rejected requests fall into this category, and other types of claims—like defamation, or sites related to ongoing legal proceedings—are considered more meritorious.
That is consistent with the original intent of RTBF, which was to prevent untrue or outdated info from appearing in searches for a person’s name. Anything that makes you look bad might seem an awful lot like an “invasion of privacy,” but that doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate.
Nonetheless, users in Europe apparently want the law to protect them from just about anything they don’t like seeing online. They also want more transparency on the process by which claims are decided. That has been made clear by a group of activists including lawyers and academics who published an open letter calling on Google to open its process up to scrutiny. The letter asks for a public explanation of the criterion used and how many cases of each type are approved or rejected. In other words: why aren’t you approving more claims?
Google should definitely give Europe the information it wants; keeping the process closed will only further fuel suspicions. But that’s not going to ultimately change whiich requests Google does and does not approve. Taking down anything that offends an individual is not only beyond the scope of the law, it also undermined the basics of how a search engine works.
Eventually, someone is going to have to explain to Europe that the best way to protect your reputation online is not to put anything up that compromises your reputation. And that if someone else does so, you should take your complaint to them directly. Monitoring your reputation is not a search engine’s job.