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News story: Google and the right to be forgotten

Currently, once information goes online, it never really dies.

This might not be the case for much longer though. As we all know, Google, along with other search engines, is extremely effective in displaying the most relevant results for what you’re looking for, and because a ‘cache’ is being used, the data can still be accessed and viewed even when the website holding the information is taken offline.

A great illustration of this is what happened to Spaniard, Mario Costeja Gonzalez. Over sixteen years ago, during some financial difficulties, he decided to put his property up for auction. Details of the auction were covered by a newspaper, which then subsequently went online. Today, although his financial worries are behind him, Google still displays the news about the auction whenever someone searches his name. In order to solve this problem, which as he described, “continues to damage his reputation and infringes his privacy”, Mario Costeja Gonzales decided to go to court.

Yesterday, the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union agreed with him, and in what is described and referred to as ‘the right to be forgotten’ case, set a major precedent. According to the verdict, Google must now modify search results at the request of members of the public. The online giant says that “it does not control data”, it only “offers links to information freely available on the internet” and describes the verdict as “disappointing”, adding, “We now need to take time to analyse the implications.”

Although ‘the right to be forgotten’ was proposed by the European Commission in 2012, Mr Gonzalez’s case is one of scores of comparable cases in Spain whose appeals want Google to delete their personal information from their search results. We await the consequences of this ruling with interest as to how it will affect the world of SEO.