Europe’s Right to Be Forgotten and a Long Memory for the Rest of Us

Posted on Posted in Personal Branding

It used to be that if something went wrong in your life, you could start over. You could move cities, province/state and begin afresh. Now, with the web and Google, unless you are in Europe or change your name, you cannot.

The Right to be Forgotten law recently passed in the EU is trying to change that. According to the Court Justice Press Release:

The list of results would display links to two pages of La Vanguardia’s newspaper, of January and March 1998. Those pages in particular contained an announcement for a real-estate auction organised following attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by Mr Costeja González.

The recent ruling means that users can remove content that is no longer relevant to their lives.

It’s ironic that the flashpoint is the “right to be forgotten,” since the U.S. for most of its existence has been a place where people come to put the past behind them. The country’s strong protections against political persecution and liberal bankruptcy laws to allow them to escape crushing debts both served as powerful magnets for immigrants seeking escape.

However, the US’s focus on Free Speech means that the results are displayed as is, and are not restricted by Google. So – search results are now a personal journal that goes back to the beginning of your life (or back to circa 1995 for the rest of us!). This permanent record for many, can create issues as our online profiles are checked more and more before people actually meet us. Who you are in your teens is often not reflective of who you are in your 30s, but currently everything is indexed.

It seems like this is a real clash. Europe’s answer is to allow people to remove their results. Eric Schmidt’s solution is to change your name. I am sure that now more than ever, it is important to take a look at your results on Google and try to take as much control as you can of them… since if you live outside of Europe, there is no starting over. The ray of hope that most people don’t realize, is that 87% of people click on the first 5 results of a search. So – if you push those results down, that long memory can get shorter.

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