Advertisers: US ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ Would Be Legally ‘Baseless’

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U.S. Regulators would be violating the First Amendment if they were to force Google and other search engines to delist certain irrelevant search results at a user’s request, a major advertising trade group said Friday.  

The Association of National Advertisers sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to “forcefully reject” a complaint from Consumer Watchdog, which requested that Google be required to allow Americans to have the “right to be forgotten.”

Due to a court ruling last year, Europeans are allowed to petition search engines to remove certain results for their name that are either inadequate, irrelevant or excessive. Consumer Watchdog urged the FTC to force Google to offer the same right to Americans. 

But the advertising trade group said that would be unprecedented. 

“There is no precedent for compelling companies to import expansive privacy policies that are not already part of their terms of service,” the letter states. “The fact that a company generally has privacy protections does not provide carte blanche to impose regulations on CW’s wish list.”

The Association of National Advertisers added: “Put simply, certain regulations acceptable under European law would be plainly unconstitutional if applied in the United States. The so-called ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ is one such policy.”

Consumer Watchdog argued earlier this month that the FTC had authority to go after Google under its unfair and deceptive practices powers. The group said it is deceptive that Google vows to honor user privacy but does not offer the “right to be forgotten” in the United States. It also said it is unfair that the “right to be forgotten” is given to Europeans but not Americans. 

The advertising trade group called those arguments “legally baseless.”

In a recent poll, many Americans supported the broad “right to be forgotten.” Google is scrubbing some information at a user’s request, including links to revenge porn or personal information, such as a Social Security number. 

Google could voluntarily offer a broader “right to be forgotten” to people in the United States, but the government is not allowed to impose it, the Association of National Advertisers said. 

The issue is slightly different than the one Google is battling French regulators over. That scuffle involved the way Google delists European citizens’ search results.  

Google currently only scrubs Europe-specific domains but not the standard that is used in the United States. 

French regulators are demanding that when a European citizen offers a valid petition to delist a link, then Google must remove the link from all of its domains around the world. They are not, however, demanding that non-European citizens be able to petition for the right to be forgotten.

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