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The Right to be Forgotten; How Criminals are Exploiting The System

Rulings in the European Court of Justice have given internet users the right to have irrelevant and outdated data about them removed from search engine results in the EU. Since the emergence in 2006, British users alone have requested the removal of over 60,000 web links from Google’s results. This makes Britain the third highest number of referrals in the EU, behind France and Germany.


The system has been put in place to protect all internet users but recently, certain people with questionable pasts have been using these new rulings to remove information that should remain for the safety of other users.


But what sort of criminal is slipping through the net and what is the impact on the standard law obeying user?


Criminals have begun taking advantage of this ruling by using the freedom involving what data is available online to remove sketchy pasts and previous convictions, even if they have since committed similar crimes. This is obviously beneficial for the criminals looking to obtaining future job roles but in some cases this takes a much serious turn. Much severe offenses in regards to terrorism has allowed those involved to remove damaging information, going against the primary principles of Google and the Right to be Forgotten ruling to informing the public with truthful and relevant information.


Although stories and articles are not actually deleted from the archives as a result of the ruling, if they cannot be found by search engines, they as may well not be there at all.


Googles' agreement to remove links to content on Wikipedia has help some of Europe's most notorious criminals sanitise their past, with 50 links to information on Wikipedia having already been deleted.


One of the many people who have taken advantage of this is Renato Vallanzasca, a former crime boss who has committed seven murders, three kidnappings and a number of armed robberies. Additionally, a link to the gang he led in Italy called Banda della Comasina has been removed. Another person that has been able to conceal their past is Irishman Gerry Hutch, a former armed bank robber, nicknamed "The Monk", who reputedly made millions during a criminal career in the 70s.


Removing links to pages for these criminals and many more is comprising the public's right to information and means that criminals and terrorists alike have the chance to erase their shady pasts, potentially endangering the public.


In response, Google have stated that they have had requests that they have also refused. For example, a former British clergyman who demanded two links to articles on a sex abuse investigation were deleted was rejected as well as a doctor who wanted more than 50 links to reports on a botched procedure to disappear.


Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary, speaking at the Society of Editors annual conference in Southampton said that "Criminals are having their convictions airbrushed from history even if they have since committed other, similar crimes. Terrorists have ordered Google to cover up stories about their trials". This shows how criminals are largely benefiting from the new rulings, using it to change their history at their will for their own benefit.



The new rulings have had it so that people have a say in their online presence from how much people can find out about them to the actual content. Using search engines like Google has revolutionised how we gather information and with a rise of ‘trolls’ out there to discredit businesses and individuals, the ruling is an overall great idea. However, certain people are taking advantage of this by using the process to remove information about their criminal and questionable history; this is quite obviously an abusive of the system and is not in the public's or Google's best interest.


Although the majority of criminals seeking to conceal their past are refused, some are making it through the cracks and having their histories wiped. The result of this is that information about these criminals' past is becoming less available, potentially endangering the public as they become less aware of who these people really are. This calls for a more strict application process that automatically rejects any requests from people who are convicted criminals or known to be terrorists or affiliated with terrorist organizations in order to keep the public safe and make the internet a safer place, like Google has been striving to do.


This article is written in collaboration with Mattan, Founder and CEO of WebitMD.


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