Few, if any, of us would want to be remembered for the worst thing we’ve done in our life.  Thankfully, for most of us that memory is likely not a very public one.  However, in this digital age, more and more of what we do gets recorded and posted on the world wide web, which, unlike your company, has no document retention policy.

As a result, the web can be unforgiving.  A top court in the EU has now held that individuals have the right to ask search engines to stop linking to information if the information is irrelevant or outdated.

(The individual in the case was complaining about 16 year old news articles reporting a sale of his property to pay debts)

So why are we posting this in an advertising blog?  We hear about this problem not infrequently with FTC press releases and orders, particularly when there are individual defendants.  Press releases can be especially problematic years later because of the natural tendency to use descriptive and quote worthy language.

While some FTC orders sunset after 20 years (if there are no repeat violations) the order and press release live on in the internet.  There is no wiping the slate clean for an individual whose name is put into a search engine, not even if their first run-in with the FTC was decades ago.  Before the internet (anyone remember back that far?), of course, many people’s pasts would, in fact, have faded into obscurity unless you were diligent enough to search through microfiche at your local library.

Now we’re not foolish enough to wade into the merits of this issue and we recognize there are arguments on both sides and a host of practical concerns.  We’re glad, however, this is an issue people are talking about.