Imagine yourself carrying a bag every day. In this bag, there is all kind of stuff: what we had for breakfast, our personal relationships, our leisure time, places where we like to be, and so on. There is space enough for all our good moments, achievements, successes… but also for our blunders.
That “bag” is our trace on the Internet: every photo we upload to Instagram, every story we share through Facebook, every formation we add to LinkedIn and also this controversial tweet in Twitter, that polemic comment in a forum about politics, that inopportune video recorded and uploaded by joker friends… All these is kept in our virtual bag.
Should we always carry that heavy bag? is there a way to make disappear those inconvenient things? The answer is affirmative: we can use the right popularly known as “Right to be forgotten”.
What is the Right to be forgotten?
Right to be forgotten is the normative equivalent to the classic Habeas Data (asking for the elimination of data registered in files, or its correction in case of false or out-to-date information), applied to the Internet.
This equivalence means that anyone is able to stop the information spreading through the Internet when these publications doesn’t fit the requirements stipulated by law.
“The Internet has its own rules… but it has rules indeed. In case of laws related to honor, privacy and image those rules are regulated by the Right to be Forgotten”
What requisites does this law include to avoid this data spreading in case of a defamatory new, a disgraceful image or a wrong comment damaging our reputation? We can ask for the elimination of this information when it is obsolete, or it has any relevance or public interest, even if the original publication is right.
This means that if there is published information in the mass media about us, an image from our past or a statement we made years ago, we can ask for the deindexation of those contents as long as they are not related to current situation or interesting for the public any more.
Right to be Forgotten in cases of online reputation
Right to be Forgotten is a main tool when protecting our online reputation. It I a method to keep and respect the rules of the game in order to make of the Internet a free space, but not a space where everything is allowed.
Therefore, Right to be Forgotten is the way we have to empty our metaphorical bag and forget all what we did and said that may affect our reputation and doesn’t fit, or doesn’t benefit our current public image.
However, the same as every right and obligation, it has some required requisites to be implemented (obsolete or irrelevant information), it shouldn’t impede or limit other rights (such as Right to Information) and they haven’t immediate effects (mediation and interaction of third parties is needed). This way, before appeal to Right to be Forgotten we should have previous knowledge about dangers and consequences of every action we take online.
How could I apply the Right to be Forgotten?
Now we know we can eliminate all this obsolete information that is not of public interest, but how can we apply the Right to be Forgotten?
The first step is let the source know that they are providing obsolete or irrelevant information about us, our company or another party affecting our online reputation. Therefore, they are damaging our image and they are not generating any public or personal benefit.
In this case, the source should delete the reference, or allege that they are exercising their own rights such as right to inform (as long as they are not defaming). Then, we have two options:
- Contacting with the company that manage the data (search engines motors): they can deindex the information because of breach of Right to be Forgotten and make it inaccessible to public (unless they accede directly to the source of data).
- Contact with the State Agency that safeguard the Right to be Forgotten: in the Spanish case, this agency is the Spanish Agency of Data Protection, and they apply the claim or dismiss it because of “interests conflict”. In this last case, we could go to courts.
Interesting websites about the Right to be Forgotten:
- Request to Block Google Search Results (in Spanish)
- Request to Block Bing Search Results
- Request to Block Yahoo Search Results (in Spanish)
- Spanish Agency of Data Protection (in Spanish)
There is another option that may accelerate the process and help us to get more effective results: contacting a company specialized in managing and cleaning online reputation.
These specialized agencies not only apply the Right to be Forgotten, but also count with professionals related to right and online marketing. This way, they are able to develop the required strategies to assure that when someone does a sensitive search on the Internet about us, provided results are not harmful for our online reputation.
This last point is really important because, despite of applying the Right to be Forgotten, we should know that published information doesn’t disappear, but it gets hided thanks to search engines deindexation. That is why a lawyer’s office can appeal those cases when references can be legitimately removed; and/or a marketing team can position verified, positive and appropriate information over negative results.