Will America Embrace the Right to be Forgotten?


What does Google say about you?

By now most of us have been made aware of the profound need for a Google self-appraisal. Whether you’re looking for a new job, a scholarship, or a big promotion—whether you’re seeking public office or just trying to get a date—what the Internet says about you matters, and Google is the most prominent and influential gatekeeper. An entire industry, christened “online reputation management,” sprang up a few years back to help people and businesses manage what Google says about them; as of right now, that industry seems to be dwindling, but interest in matters of online privacy does not.

Privacy is the Issue of the Day

In fact, online privacy is a bigger deal than ever. You remember the big NSA bombshells, and you’re familiar with some of the more recent episodes in online privacy breach. You may also be aware of the Right to Be Forgotten movement, which is a massive thing in Europe and has proven victorious in many high courts. The movement is all about online privacy, and embraces the right that we all have, as individuals, to disappear off Google’s radar. A recent Wall Street Journal article helpfully summarizes the result of one such court victory: “Under the new rule, people can demand that Google, Bing and other engines remove links to pages that come up when one searches for their names.”

As you might imagine, privacy advocates are pretty keen on the idea of slipping off Google’s map, while Google itself is not as thrilled. A delegation from the company has embarked on a tour of Europe, offering its take on the issue.

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Privacy in the USA

Over in Europe, this is a big deal; here in the United States, you don’t hear much about it at all, and we certainly don’t seem very close to passing our own version of a Right to Be Forgotten bill.

That’s kind of funny, given how privacy-obsessed this nation tends to be.

It’s understandable, of course, why some might think the Right to Be Forgotten concept is a slippery slope. Does your Right to Be Forgotten include deleting all references to your criminal record? To sex offenses? To defrauding investors or committing some other act of corporate fraud? Aren’t there certain things the rest of us have a right to know?

Admittedly, there seems to be more and more skepticism out there about the amount of dirt Google has on us—but if we disallowed tech companies to collect and store certain information, would it be reflected in a less-robust array of personalized services?

I’m asking you. What’s your take on the Right to Be Forgotten? Do you think it could ever catch on in America—and do you think it should?

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