A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, with regards to material available via internet search engines, has indicated that an internet search engine will never forget you, and furthermore that we have no right to be forgotten.
This ruling shows just how important it is to have offending, bullying, harassing and defamatory material removed from its point of origin, its birthplace. Otherwise it will always be remembered by Google and other search engines, and will always come back to haunt you when your name is searched. As we know in this day and age ‘Googling’ a person’s name is common place, be it when you are attending an interview, applying for a job, linking in with someone, or even tweeting someone. Search engine searches are a normal and common feature in day to day life.
The case in question concerned a complaint made by Mr Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who complained to the Spanish Data Protection Agency about a 15 year old newspaper article that concerned the sale of his home following re-possession by the bank. Mr Gonzalez argued this was protected data under the relevant Spanish Data Protection Directive. Mr Gonzalez was successful and the Spanish Data Protection Agency ordered Google to ensure the information was blocked from internet results following a search of his name.
Rightly so, the internet giant launched a legal challenge on the basis that its indexing of websites was just that, simply a list of results available from third parties on the internet, and that Google do not process or control the information that was the subject of Mr Gonzalez’ complaint. An interim judgment in the case, by Advocate General Jaaskinen, found in favour of Google, thereby creating the strap line – ‘no right to be forgotten’.
The ramifications of this judgment are huge, as it shows that no matter how much search engine optimisation you may do to try and push down negative internet results to page oblivion of Google, you will never be forgotten unless the offending, bullying, harassing and defamatory material is removed from its foundation i.e. removed from the website or the publisher who first released the story on the internet. If you cannot action removal from the point where the offending material was born, it will always remain online, and trying to merely supress it, will be akin to suing the newspaper vendor for selling a newspaper that is defaming you, rather than suing the newspaper itself. A costly and ultimately fruitless exercise.
The moral of the story – do not rely on suppression; attack the offending, defamatory, harassing and bullying material, using specialist internet lawyers such as Pinder Reaux. Tactically planning your attack, using legal tools at our disposal (including the ability to unmask anonymous internet users), and ultimately achieving removal of the offending material is the only way to achieve a total solution to such matters. Otherwise, Google and other search engines will never forget you, and you will forever be haunted by offending online material. Put simply, can you afford to leave this data/information, albeit false, online for all to see? Can your business afford this? Be proactive, remove the incorrect, negative and defamatory material about you or your business and retain your reputation.
Head of Internet, Media and Sports Law @ Pinder Reaux
Tweet me @john_spyrou