As we blogged about last year, the highest court of the European Union ruled that Google must implement “the right to be forgotten,” requiring the search engine to strike out embarrassing about individuals upon their request. There is now a movement to bring that right to the United States.
Read about it after the jump. Would this be a blow for internet privacy? Or an effort to censor the internet? Would it be a salutary method of covering up old mistakes? Or an attempt to remake history by implementing an Orwellian “memory hole”?
Internet users in Europe have something Internet users in the U.S. don’t have: a right to be forgotten online. Thanks to a 2014 court case, Europeans can ask search giants to remove results that are outdated, inaccurate, or irrelevant — giving them more control over their online reputations.
But now, one consumer group is asking the Federal Trade Commission to make Google bring that privacy protection to Americans. In a formal complaint to be sent to the agency Tuesday, Consumer Watchdog argues that withholding that ability from U.S. Internet users is unfair and deceptive — two types of business practices the FTC is charged with protecting consumers against. The letter urges the FTC to “investigate and act” on the situation.[Opinion: The ‘right to be forgotten’ online is really a right to be forgiven]
The right to be forgotten, or the right of relevancy, has gained new urgency in the digital age, the group argues in the letter to the FTC. “Before the Internet if someone did something foolish when they were young – and most of us probably did – there might well be a public record of what happened,” the letter says. But then, those indiscretions required digging to bring up years or decades down the line — and now they’re “instantly available with a few clicks on a computer or taps on a mobile device.”
The right to be forgotten gives back a level of the privacy by obscurity that people enjoyed before the Internet age, Consumer Watchdog argues. But Google has been unwilling to extend the practice beyond where it’s currently explicitly required — a state of affairs John Simpson, the director of the organization’s Privacy Project, believes puts it on the wrong side of the FTC’s mandate to protect consumers.