How Will Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF) Affect Business Search?

High Court Decision Means Google Can Expect More Appeals

RTBF is one of a range of European initiatives to protect the privacy of individuals. How will recent developments affect the future of search?

In the information age, we are only too well aware of the sheer volume of data that exists about us on a range of databases. Some of that information is in the public domain, and it is natural that there will be occasions when we would prefer to have it removed.

One of the tenets of the new GDPR is to give individuals control over personal data that is held by others, so the EU’s Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) dovetails closely with this principle. Established in 2014, it gives individuals the right to ask search engines like Google to remove certain urls from their results page. Since the ruling, Google has received more than 2.5 million requests, and has granted the request in 43 percent of cases. RTBF is a key component of reputation management, but could be a double edged sword for businesses.

Reputation management

Any business or individual wants to show themselves in the best possible light. It is important from a marketing and SEO perspective to show your business as an authority in its industry and to ensure web content, news stories, blog posts, social media content and the like all work towards that end.

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When businesses go to the time and effort to cultivate web pages that achieve these goals, the last thing they want to happen is for the urls to be delisted due to an individual being granted a RTBF request.

Why do people submit RTBF requests?

The reasons why an individual might submit an RTBF request are many and varied. Some might have moved on in their lives or careers and no longer wish to be associated with a particular business. Others might feel that the content shows them in a bad light – for example, a nightclub might post images of revellers enjoying themselves on a Friday night, but in the cold light of day on a Monday morning, it is easy to imagine individuals taking objection to the pictures. And sometimes there are news stories about individuals that chronicle events in their lives that they would prefer to forget.

Still others simply feel that they already have a digital footprint that is out of control and would prefer to protect their privacy and anonymity.

How does Google decide

Till now, Google has turned down more requests than it has granted. Clearly, the company has to balance the rights of the individual against public interest. There is always going to be a degree of subjectivity here, but the recent High Court decision to overturn Google’s refusal to remove details of an individual’s criminal past from search results will certainly have repercussions.

For one thing, it will be sure to signal similar legal appeals, and for another, it is likely to affect Google’s thinking in dealing with future requests.

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What can businesses do?

From a business perspective, the ideal situation is not to be faced with RTBF requests and their potential consequences in the first place. That means taking the privacy rights of individuals such as customers and employees seriously, and always obtaining their consent before sharing any personal information or images on company webpages.

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