A consumer advocacy group is urging the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate why Google has not given American internet users the “right to be forgotten.”
In 2014, a European court mandated that Google remove search results from individuals when asked, if the results are irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate.
In a letter sent today to the FTC, John Simpson, the privacy project director of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, argued that though Google says it is dedicated to users’ privacy, its unwillingness to let Americans remove irrelevant search results is hypocritical. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Quartz.
“Without a doubt requesting the removal of a search engine link from one’s name to irrelevant data under the Right To Be Forgotten (or Right to Relevancy) is an important privacy option,” wrote Simpson. “Describing yourself as championing users’ privacy while not offering a key privacy tool—indeed one offered all across Europe—is deceptive behavior.”
Since last May, Europeans have submitted more than 1 million URLs to Google for removal from its search engine, and the company has removed 41% of them from its local European sites, such as Google.co.uk. But there’s an easy workaround since anybody can see the full list of search results on Google.com. This has prompted a European regulatory body to call on Google to remove these results from its sites outside of the region as well.
In the US, Google has removed sensitive information, such as Social Security, bank account, and credit card numbers, from its search engine on a case-by-case basis. Last month, Google said it would honor requests to remove revenge porn, or intimate images and videos shared without the consent of their subjects.
“As clearly demonstrated by its willingness to remove links to certain information when requested in the United States, Google could easily offer the Right To Be Forgotten or Right To Relevancy request option to Americans,” said Simpson. Google, however, has long maintained that it’s a “neutral intermediary” and not in the business of censorship.