Saturday, 12 November 2016 14:03

Erasing the Past From Google Search


Q. Is there a “right to be forgotten” in the United States? How do you get false or damaging personal information removed from Google search results?

A. In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google (and other companies that profit from personal information collected from their users) had to obey requests from those users to remove outdated or irrelevant personal information from search listings. This concept is known as the “right to be forgotten,” but that particular legal decision applies only to citizens of the European Union; other countries, including Indonesia, are passing similar legislation.

Free-speech advocates and those who believe in unencumbered access to information generally oppose these types of laws — even as the regulations may spread around the world in countries that are trying to protect the privacy of their citizens. However, the United States, with the strong First Amendment protections in its Constitution, has not enacted any “right to be forgotten” laws.

It is not impossible to persuade Google to stop listing certain types of information in its search results, but it depends on the content. On its Removal Policies page, the company says material that violates copyright laws or that contains child sexual abuse imagery is taken out of search results after a legal request. Images that show bank or credit card numbers, personal signatures or Social Security numbers can also be taken out of results if requested, as can so-called revenge porn photos posted without the subject’s consent.

Contacting Google to request that a page be blocked from appearing in search results is not the same thing as having the page removed from the web entirely. The company suggests first asking the webmaster of the site hosting the page to take it down. If that approach does not work, read this article on removing information from Google to learn what types of content might be considered for exclusion from search results — and how to make your removal request.



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