Americans should be entitled to a "right to be forgotten" from Google search queries, a consumer advocacy group says. Consumer Watchdog on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Google of "unfair and deceptive" practices for failing to provide U.S. users the ability to remove search engine links from their name to information that is "inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive." In Europe, where privacy laws are different, courts have ordered Google to provide such an option and the company has removed more than 40 percent of such links when requested, Consumer Watchdog says.
"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," the complaint says.
Google declined to comment on the complaint. Some observers have noted that it would be hard for Google to extend "right to be forgotten" to the U.S. because that could be perceived as contravening the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
The Consumer Watchdog complaint cites several examples where it says Americans have been harmed by not being able to remove search links to information about themselves. In one case, a guidance counselor was fired after lingerie modeling photos from 20 years prior surfaced on the Internet; in another, a young California woman was decapitated in an auto accident but photos from the grisly scene still turned up on a search of her name.
Consumer Watchdog noted that Google recently announced it would honor requests to take down links to "revenge porn," and argued that the company should have no problem removing links to other "irrelevant" personal information.