Magic bullet or bitter pill – Do you ever really have the ‘right to be forgotten’ online?

Right to be Forgotten

The right to be forgotten

The ‘right to be forgotten’¬†judgement is back in the news. The French data regulator has applied for powers to enforce the removal of out-of-date or embarrassing content from internet domains around the world, not just from their own national cyberspace. Google is resisting the application on the grounds that it would set a precedent for authoritarian regimes to limit free speech.

The French regulator’s argument is persuasive: a search engine by its very nature is not restricted to a local territory, nor is the content revealed through a local search. As it stands, the removal of an article in one territory is, in our experience, ineffective. The use of a simple VPN to shift to a different territory can swiftly relocate the piece of content that might have already been removed under the right to be forgotten ruling in the complainant’s country of domicile.

However, let’s say the French were successful in their application. What might the material impact of a global right to be forgotten ruling look like? Would the removal of a piece of content from global search engines #searchengines really enhance one’s personal privacy?

The impact of social media

If the “offending” content was shared on social media with significant reach, the outcome could potentially be just as damaging. A perfect example is the very public firing of James Gunn, writer-director of The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Decade-old tweets resurfaced via screenshots. Despite his heartfelt apology that historic offensive jokes he made were in no way a reflection of who he is now, Gunn still found himself removed from the franchise. Social media reach of a piece of historic content must also be considered when discussing removal.

Obscura ORM’s approach: act, don’t react

Rather than trying to erase historic content, Obscura ORM identifies fresh ways to positively promote our clients’ online profile. Our proactive approach starts by securing and then retaining all positions on Google page one. By increasing their relative strength via sustained end-user interaction, we arm our clients with a robust position to help dispel any offending content that may try to work its way back up Google’s rankings.

Obscura ORM‘s big picture strategy starts with a comprehensive audit of a client’s digital profile. Information always beats guesswork.


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