Consumer Group Wants Google to Adopt “Right to Be Forgotten”

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Consumer Watchdog is asking the Federal Trade Commission to extend Europe’s “right to be forgotten” to Google and other search engines.

Because of the European law adopted in 2014 as the result of a court case, Google has removed more than 41 percent of the requests it receive in Europe. It declined to remove about 495, 674 requests.

The consumer group, which has been a relentless critic of Google’s privacy policies, argues that Google’s refusal to honor such requests in the U.S. is “unfair and deceptive,” and a violation of the FTC Act.

“Though Google claims it is concerned about users’ privacy, it does not offer U.S. users the ability to make this basic request. Describing yourself as championing users’ privacy while not offering a key privacy tool – indeed one offered all across Europe – is deceptive behavior,” John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director wrote in a complaint filed with the FTC Tuesday.

It’s also an unfair practice, the group said because it is “likely to cause substantial injury to consumers that consumers cannot reasonably avoid themselves,” Simpson wrote.

The group itemizes a list of examples of ordinary citizens that made requests to Google, but were denied by the search giant.

The biggest argument against applying “right to be forgotten” in the U.S. is the First Amendment, an objection Consumer Watchdog addresses.

“The right simply allows a person to request that links from their name to data that is inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive be removed from search results. Americans deserve the same ability to make such a privacy-protecting request and have it honored,” the letter said.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment, but was quick to point out that when the European ruling came down, editorials against applying the “right to be forgotten” in the U.S. ran in the New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post.

The FTC’s general policy is not to comment about ongoing investigations.

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