Group demands that Google offer users the 'right to be forgotten'

Group demands that Google offer users the 'right to be forgotten'
© Google

A group on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) arguing that Google should allow users to request that information about them be taken down from the search engine.

In its complaint, Consumer Watchdog says Google is misleading consumers in the United States by saying it is devoted to privacy without offering the so-called “right to be forgotten.” European users have the right to request that right under a 2014 court ruling.

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“Without a doubt requesting the removal of a search engine link from one’s name to irrelevant data under the Right To Be Forgotten (or Right to Relevancy) is an important privacy option,” Consumer Watchdog said in its complaint.

“Though Google claims it is concerned about users’ privacy, it does not offer U.S. users the ability to make this basic request. Describing yourself as championing users’ privacy while not offering a key privacy tool — indeed one offered all across Europe — is deceptive behavior.”

Under the concept of the “right to be forgotten,” users can that Google remove certain links from the search results for their name. The company makes the final call on what to cut from the results.

Across Europe, Google has removed 41.3 percent of the URLs that users have requested be taken down, according to data released by the company.

The company has moved to give some Americans more control over their results in extreme cases. Last month, the company said users could request the removal of “revenge porn,” a term given to sexually explicit images put online without a person’s consent.

“Not offering Americans a basic privacy tool, while providing it to millions of users across Europe, is also an unfair practice,” Consumer Watchdog said in its filing.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez has said that an "expansive 'right to be forgotten' is not something that’s likely to pass Constitutional muster here in the United States because there is a First Amendment right to both access to public information and freedom of expression."

The group pushed back against this notion.

“It is not censorship. It does not remove content from the Web. It would not raise First Amendment issues in the United States,” it wrote.

An FTC spokesperson said that the agency "confirm or deny the existence of any investigations."

A Google spokesperson declined to comment, but did note Ramirez's comments to The Hill.