The European court "right to be forgotten" ruling issued May last year created an overwhelming amount of requests submitted to Google by individuals and companies, all wishing to remove unwanted or damaging results from the web main search index.
Ten months after the ruling was issued, the "right to be forgotten" act implications are becoming more visible on Google search results in the European Union countries. During the past few weeks I've been asked several times if Google has implemented the act and if results are actually removed so here is our view, based on what we know and have seen with clients and partners so far.
You will know that Google applied the act when the following message will appear at the bottom of the search results page:
"Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.
The message usually appears when searching for an individual or a business entity that were "EU act qualified" by Google. In order to qualify, you'll need to submit a formal request to Google's consideration accompanied by a proof of identity (passport / ID / other identification). Google people will review the request and if approved, will remove the relevant links from its search results index and replace them with the above message.
The approval process is manual and as such slow and not transparent although Google provide notification at the end of the process indicating if the results will be removed or not.
Unfortunately Google policy re the EU "right to be forgotten" act is only relevant in the European Union countries meaning it only applies to Google European versions (results presented when searching from a European country that is part of the EU). Furthermore, we are told that many requests do not qualify due to problem with filling the form, failure to describe the reason for removal or missing identification confirmation so if you're submitting a removal request, make sure you follow the request submission guidelines.
In terms of managing your online reputation, the act can be helpful and should definitely be used to try and remove unwanted results linked to your name when searching on Google. You do however need to keep in mind that the actual information can still be found in relevant databases and records and will not be deleted from them so if a professional search is conducted the information will still be found.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the act only applies when searching from a European Union country and will not apply when searching from the US, Asia, Latin America and Australia, although we have found that in some cases the EU removal actually helped pushing some of the info off the first page in the other territories so when possible, we do recommend going through the process and submitting the form.
Overall the "right to be forgotten" act is a big step in the long journey of protecting one's information and privacy although coming so late in the game will probably have very little impact, if any.
You can find more information about the qualification process, the forms you'll need to fill and the expected outcome here.