The so-called “Right to Be Forgotten” may not be very well-known in the United States but, in Europe, the concept has been around since January of 2012. After a Spaniard named Mario Costeja Gonzalez had a property of his put up for auction, he argued that the online posts shouldn’t be left up long after the financial issues had been resolved. Gonzalez brought the case to court and claimed that the postings continued to damage his reputation, and should be removed from Google’s search results. Fortunately for Mr. Gonzalez, the Court of Justice of the European Union agreed. Thus, the “right to be forgotten” was born.
When defining this right, the European Union (EU) stated “Individuals have the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. This applies where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive for the purpose of data processing.” This right is limited by assessing each request independently to determine where it would fit in the balance between an individual having personal privacy and keeping information that is in the public’s’ best interest easily accessible.
In the future, the EU hopes to expand this right to also apply to social media. Say goodbye to those embarrassing middle school posts and that picture of you throwing up at your first college party. However, at the present time, this right only applies to search engines. The websites in question still exist but the results won’t show up on your screen after clicking “Search”. So, for now, your potential employer can still find those facebook posts; they just won’t pop up on a google search.