Last February, Google announced that it would begin blocking results across all of its domains when a search takes place within Europe, in an extension of how it implemented the “right to be forgotten” ruling.
The controversial move lets individuals and businesses remove their personal data from Google listings, if they can prove that articles are based on outdated or irrelevant information. Searches, however, outside Europe using the US domain will not be altered.
Whilst this was heralded as a key piece of legislation to protect the individual, free speech activists were quick to criticize the move as being against the public interest. Much like the much-publicised super injunctions, some view them as the preserve of the rich and the powerful, and another shield from which they can hide their supposed cloak and dagger tactics.
However, the reality for businesses is not so straight forward. Brands, executives and high-net-worth individuals have worked with agencies for decades to shape their public image and increase awareness of the good work they do. Surely having a tool which can shape one’s digital footprint is a good thing?
Since the right to be forgotten’s inception in May 2014, Google has been at loggerheads with several EU data protection authorities, and has received hundreds of thousands of requests to have articles removed – from the scandalous to the downright bizarre. It has also led to people questioning the news that’s presented to them.
With recent revelations regarding the increase of fake news, people treat, or at least should be treating digital channels with certain air of distrust. Even publications such as the Daily Mail have been called into question, leading to Wikipedia banning the publication as a source this week due to its “reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication”. Most would not be surprised by this but it highlights the need for quality media to remain the only effective channel for brands to protect their public image.
Even with the right to be forgotten, there will always be a need for businesses to maintain healthy relations with the wider world around them. If the ruling has taught communications professionals anything it is that they cannot rely on EU dogma to keep their commercial interests afloat.