Washington, District of Columbia

HomeDistrict of ColumbiaWashington

Email Jonathan Nace Jonathan Nace on LinkedIn
Jonathan Nace
Jonathan Nace
Attorney • (202) 930-0292

Consumer Watchdog Questions Google Search Engine

Comments Off

It’s become a maxim that you “can’t control what’s on the internet.”  But, why should we accept this in the US when Europe demand and have implemented the “Right to be Forgotten.”  The non-profit organization Consumer Watchdog has written an op-ed in the Washington Post through one of its consumer advocates, Liza Tucker regarding the so-called “Right to be Forgotten” and its applicability to search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

Imagine your 18-year-old daughter is decapitated in a car accident. Gruesome police photographs of her body are leaked onto the Internet. Every time someone searches your family’s name, the photos pop up at the top of the page. That’s what happened to Christos and Lesli Catsouras because in the United States, unlike in Europe, search engines are not required to act on requests by individuals to remove such links.

Specifically, Consumer Watchdog is responding to a previous WP editorial post dismissing the request for the right to be forgotten.  In our view, the WP mistakenly argues that a “Right to be Forgotten” equates with censorship.  But Ms. Tucker correctly demonstrates why this is erroneous.

True suppression of speech happens when a government reviews all media and suppresses those parts it deems objectionable on moral, political, military or other grounds. With a right to be forgotten, Google, Yahoo and other corporations — not the government — would decide what material should not be provided in response to search requests, while the material would still remain on any Web sites that posted it.

Paulson & Nace has previously reached out and investigated claims of disruptions caused by online material.  And we agree with Consumer Watchdog when they discuss the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

U.S. law already recognizes that certain information should become irrelevant after the passage of the time has demonstrated that an individual is not likely to repeat a mistake. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is enforced by the FTC, dictates that debt collections, civil lawsuits, tax liens and even arrests for criminal offenses in most cases be considered obsolete after seven years and so excluded from credit reports.

The concern is that Google and other search engines do not abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or “FCRA,” instead they have avoided compliance with it.  FCRA does not apply to all information on the internet.  However, if there is information pertaining which has adversely impacted you or another’s employment or financial status, then Google has probably harmed you by not complying with FCRA.