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David Eddy, Ph.D. & Doina Adam, M.A., LCPC
FAMILY THERAPY ASSOCIATES
FTA Research

The Right to be Forgotten

We have been doing informal research on how people's lives can be adversely affected by the long memory of the Internet. Many people have posted things to social media or done things in real life that may come back to haunt them later - often many years later. Web search engines can find material on the Internet that is years old and doesn't reflect a person's current life, but yet these search results can continue to shape that person's on-line persona. This can affect both a person's work life and personal life.

The European Union has developed the "Right to be Forgotten" on the Internet. This right allows a person to request that Internet search engines not index certain old material about them. Since this policy has been enacted, there have been more than half a million requests made to Google to remove specific Web pages from their search results.

While a 'right to be forgotten' makes sense, it can't be implemented in the United States because of our First Amendment right to freedom of the press. However, it may be possible to persuade search engines such as Google to give less weight to older results in searches for a person's name. This would be a compromise that would cause search results to favor more recent personal events or achievements while still keeping older material in search results. This would help many people by keeping older material from dominating their on-line profiles.

One local example of a person whose on-line profile is dominated by old stories is Nate Heatwole. His on-line profile continues to emphasize a 2003 incident despite considerable academic and professional achievement since that time. For example, the links below connect to positive material about Nate Heatwole that is buried in the search results.

Please let us know about other examples of people who may continue to be adversely affected by out-of-date search results.

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