Is the EU’s new Right to be Forgotten a force for good?

Google has become one of the most trusted information gathering tools available to people in recent times. Its effects have been felt across multiple sectors and disciplines across the globe. In the PR industry it has changed the speed at which breaking news is available, as well as making other information easier to find, such as a company’s financials or shareholder reports.

This is why this ruling is so fascinating and it has sent shockwaves right to the core of the media and communications industries. Despite recent criticisms of Google from a number of detractors and subsequent developments of splinter cell websites such as ‘Hidden From Google’, the basis of the judgement has not changed since the off.

To offer a quick glance at how this came into motion; the ruling has been bought forward by an individual’s Google search history highlighting a past conviction and this will now act as a precedent for all future cases. It was ruled that he did have a right to remove the information stored against his name, as this was not seen to be in the public interest. So what is in the public interest?

Most private individuals’ affairs clearly do not impact on the public, unless they are CEO of a public company, but even then information is mainly relevant to shareholders. There are striking similarities between this and the High Court injunctions which were broken in 2012 when Twitter went into meltdown over a retired footballer’s extra-marital behaviour.

Essentially, it is the job of reputation management and PR agencies to protect their clients’ interests, and the EU’s ruling will help achieve this. Previously, PR agencies have created news, social media channels, blogs and interacted with journalists to place stories which will ultimately improve Google’s search results for clients.

There will, however, be drawbacks to abandoning the more traditional approach and focussing solely on removing search results. If, as recent news predicts, Google UK (Google.co.uk) puts a disclaimer against search results stating that information has been removed for that specific search term, this will only provoke more suspicion of those behind the search. This information will be easy to find, too, as under the United States Constitution, censorship is not permitted and so the omitted results will be viewable on Google’s US search engine (Google.com) as well as other websites like the ones already noted.

But prevention is better than cure, and whilst it’s a good thing for individuals looking to remove an unfortunate event from their past, it does not remove the need for PR activity as the information will still be available in the public domain. This ruling will obviously impact the industry; the extent of the consequences remains to be seen. It should not, however, stop you from improving your digital footprint, which will provide you with the opportunity to receive the recognition you deserve.

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You have +1 new friend request: Burglar Bill

So, 500 million members…. That’s a lot of friends. That’s 1 in 13 of the world’s population. If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world. MySpace who?? 

As Facebook reaches yet another milestone, leaving other social media sites trailing in the dust, one can’t help wondering if Mark Zuckerberg will actually take over the world one day. But no Achilles is without his heel and Facebook – a seemingly unstoppable force in today’s social media-centric world – certainly does come with its weaknesses.   

According to Andrew Keen on Newsnight this week, the internet and the real world are one in the same: “The internet is the world. It is a reflection of us and we are a reflection of it. Facebook reflects the changing socio-economic nature of life”.  With this in mind, just like real-life relationships and identities seem to have merged with their virtual counterparts, so have some of the more sinister things in life.

When did you last boast in your Facebook status about an upcoming night out, or count down the number of ‘sleeps’ until your amazing two-week holiday in Ibiza? As Twitter’s tagline declares, social media is “without a doubt the best way to share and discover what is happening right now.” Unfortunately, it is also consequently one of the best ways to let the modern generation of social-media savvy burglars know that you’ve left your home empty.

 In this way, Facebook and Twitter provide a potential “gold mine” of information for criminals, whilst Foursquare discloses that people are in a specific spot and, more importantly, definitely not at home. A survey found that 12 per cent of burglars said they had used social networking sites to do their research – a figure no doubt fortified by Facebook’s 100 billion hits a day.

As a result, insurance specialists are warning that using Facebook or Twitter ‘could raise your insurance premiums by 10pc‘. Could this be an opportunity for savvy insurance brands to build customer trust with a ‘social media safety’ campaign?

There is always an exception to the rule though… in this case, hapless burglar Jonathan G. Parker, who made the almost unbelievably idiotic mistake of checking his Facebook account on the computer in a house he had broken into, but forgot to log out. If convicted he faces one to 10 years in prison.

Facebook: help or hindrance? Both apparently, if you’re a thieving vagabond…