People in the United States may soon be able to legally remove themselves from Google. The initiative promoting the “right to be forgotten” has been making substantial moves forward over the past two years all over the world and Internet users in the U.S. may finally have the chance to take advantage of the concept in the near future. The idea started in Europe a few years back and demand started growing in the U.S. back in 2015. The premise is that a person should be able to have websites and data about them removed from a search engine’s index, servers, and more, making it harder to find that information, or at least to stumble onto it through a basic search. More generally, the idea is based on the concept that a person should own the rights to their personal information and a say in how that information is used. The idea is particularly pertinent in cases where removal can help a person overcome past slip-ups or free them from living under threat from any false information that may be found about them online. That is hardly an exhaustive list of reasons, but nearly all reasons supporting the idea could be summarized by saying that a person has the right to contest information that is publicly available about themselves. Although Google and some other search engines have already been compliant with many requests from users in recent years, the bill sitting before New York’s State Assembly would turn what was previously a voluntary compliance into an actual rule of law.
It appears that the civil rights bill A05323 will encompass a breadth of removal requests once it passes, though it generally focuses on providing legal backing to the ideas behind the “right to be forgotten.” First, it would affect search engines, indexers, publishers, or any other person or entity operating on the Internet or within a computer-based network. That is a rather broad spectrum of entities that would then be required to adhere to requests for removal. It would require that widened group to remove information about an individual within 30 days of receiving a request to do so from the same individual. As stated above, many companies will often already remove offending data if an individual makes a request, but the law appears to also expand on what information has to be removed.
Google has already made advances in how it handles requests for data removal, as evidenced by its yearly transparency report. It was also reported earlier this month that Google would be adding geolocation techniques to ensure the company’s services aren’t inadvertently providing direct access to information that was previously removed. However, while Google has been removing individuals’ information with no real legal binding to do so, it may soon be forced to allow users to “be forgotten.”