What Does GDPR’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Mean For Online Reviews?


We are living in a digital age where almost every aspect of our life can be shared online, usually by our own choosing. After years of oversharing, many are just beginning to learn the hard way how they have created a digital footprint that could come back to haunt them when they least expect it.

By contrast, many digital natives are also living in an echo chamber. A personalized virtual world where they only see what supports their worldview. There are occasions when we need protecting from ourselves, but removing anything we don’t like is far from ideal too.

However, the million dollar question is, what should you do when you find a negative online review or incriminating photo after bravely Googling yourself?

Right to be forgotten, Goog

When Croatian-born pianist Dejan Lazic discovered that the most read story against his name was a bad review from 2010, he decided to take action. Lazic set out on a mission to reclaim the “truth” about himself by turning to the right to be forgotten act. But many accused him of censorship and rewriting his own history. Some journalists even asked the question, should we just forget about the right to be forgotten?

However, there are examples that highlight a lack of protection and justice available for online defamation victims from Google and other tech companies too. There undoubtedly needs to be something in place to protect an individual’s privacy in situations where information is deeply flawed. But who should determine what is and what isn’t relevant is where things get very complicated.

The right to be forgotten act is just one aspect of GDPR that can be used to protect both online users and businesses from fraudsters and criminals looking to exploit their past. Equally, there are many examples of people using the act to rebrand themselves and end up rewriting history in the process. What is the answer?

GDPR is an excellent example of introducing much-needed protection that has unwittingly restricted the internet. For example, useful sites such as Rip Off Report is now inaccessible to anyone within the European Union. Sure, the website divides the online community into two camps. But, should your location determine what online reviews you can read about a company?

RippOff Report Unavailable in the EU

On the positive side, it enables any users to post reviews about any business anonymously. However, the site is not without its problems, and it has been accused of being nothing more than a money-making scam hiding behind the guise of free speech by charging business owners to remove bad reports for the right price.

The good intentions of GDPR are preventing users from accessing US websites. Equally, nervous publications blaming GDPR for locking away their content seems a little strange. As I write this post in the UK, I am prevented from researching business reviews on RipOff.com, but this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

A US citizen who visits me in the UK cannot access the Chicago Herald or the New York Daily News, but they can read the New York Times. What value does this provide and why will some publications let countries outside of the US access content and others won’t?

Technology is responsible for tearing down geographical barriers and bringing the global community together. So why are we now building a virtual wall to keep people out? And what happens if US companies begin to remove reviews posted by EU citizens and also deny them access to valuable information?


The benefits of living in a fully connected world are vast, but they do come at a price. Every triumph, milestone, and mistake can be found in an online search. But, when did being human and learning from our mistakes as we grow become such a bad thing? Promoting a bland and unrealistic version of yourself is possibly more damaging than a photo of you at a party in 2007 or a bad review in 2010.

Social media has enabled everyone to effectively become their own PR manager. Creating a fake and idealistic world where we only show our friends and followers a highlight reel of how we would like to be perceived is not the answer. But, selectively whitewashing our online history feels like a step too far that will encourage and promote delusions of grandeur too.

There is also an argument that by censoring our own content, we are also censoring others from getting information and expressing themselves too. For these reasons alone, the concept behind the right to be forgotten is a great idea in principle, but a dangerous precedent that could cause more problems than it solves.

Tech Columnist, Writer, Blogger and Podcaster featured in @HuffingtonPost @TheNextWeb @Inc @ZDnet & LinkedIn Top Voice on Technology https://lists.linkedin.com/2015/top-voices/technology?trk=ranking-overview-b-ind#.


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