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The ruling of the EU Court on the right to be forgotten widens the profile for online reputation managers

[13/05/14]

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has proven the Spanish Data Protection Agency right in its dispute with Google in considering that Google’s search engines are responsible for personal data that appears on web pages that come up in its searches. The ruling also recognized the existence of the “right to be forgotten” as brought about by the Spanish citizen affected by this case requesting that his data be removed from Internet, although this does set out a series of conditions and limitations. The sentences opens up a whole new scenario for online reputation managers and lawyers. “The online reputation manager is a professional figure with a long future” assures Cristòfol Rovira, director of UPF-IDEC’s Master in Search Engines. 

Online reputation managers are responsible for implementing strategies to promote a good image or work against the bad image of companies or individuals on the Internet. These strategies basically aim to make the first results that come up on Google concerning a company or person, the most positive, and send the negatives ones to the end of the lists, effectively making them invisible or less evident. The ruling leaves free reign for people to request the search engine to delete data that may infringe on their right to privacy. “Until now, this task was carried out basically by Internet experts, especially on web positioning (SEO) and social networks. Now that the EU Court of Justice recognizes the right to be forgotten, the question is whether using legal channels will become the norm when working to counteract a bad reputation on the web. It is obvious that to request the removal of personal information in accordance with this ruling, you wouldn’t need to be an expert in web positioning and social networks, but in law”, Rovira points out.

In order to comply with the ruling, a balance will have to be found between the right to privacy and the right to information of public interest concerning this public information available on the internet.  However, obviously it will be easier to delete the source of “inadequate” information than to apply a strategy in the medium term that would prevent this information from appearing on the first page of a Google search. “Recently a lot is being said about legal issues in politics, so should we now talk about legalizing online reputations?” Rovira asks.

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