The internet is a fantastic tool for archiving information, but when that information says bad things about your own personal life, character, or past missteps, it can be a huge burden. The “right to be forgotten” concept which took root in Europe about a decade ago seeks to minimize the negative impact the internet’s massive wealth of information can have on a person’s future by making it easier to have certain private material scrubbed from search engine results. Now, that same idea could be put into practice in the United States.
A bill currently making its way through the New York State Assembly proposes that the right to be forgotten act be implemented as amendments to the state’s civil rights and civil practice laws. The proposed changes would put search companies on the hook for removing certain private and personal information within 30 days of receiving a request to do so. The information would need to be “inaccurate, irrelevant, inadequate, or excessive” in order to quality for removal from search indexes.
Google has chosen not to comment on the bill’s existence or its potential approval, but has taken a stand in the past against the idea of modifying search results based on being asked to do so. For companies like Google, the issue isn’t necessarily the legwork involved in removing the requested information, but the likelihood that the request system will be abused by individuals seeking to censor anything and everything that they don’t particularly agree with. It’s a very real concern, and it will be interesting to see whether this New York proposal leads other lawmakers to consider similar measures.