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.