Privacy is perhaps the hottest topic on everybody’s lips at the moment with various agencies, companies and governing bodies coming under intense scrutiny about how they handle our personal data.   

More and more people are becoming increasingly concerned about how their actions in the digital and psychical worlds, may be reflected online and in the age of pervasive social media, everything is recorded and shared at an unprecedented rate.

This is a huge cause for concern for people and companies who have fallen foul of bad press, which in most cases stays online for very long periods of time.  

The people’s right to be forgotten 

Back in May new privacy powers were given to people inside of Europe.  The European courts landmark ruling on individual privacy allows people the ‘right to be forgotten’, essentially, people have the right to have irrelevant and out-dated information removed from search engines if they so wish. All search engines that operate within Europe must adhere to this ruling and in response, Google set up a removal request form to meet this requirement. 

Individuals can use the form to submit a list of links they wish to be removed from search results, stating why they deem them to be irrelevant and out-dated. Perhaps surprisingly the response has been somewhat phenomenal with over 50,000 removal requests just 22 days after the form went live.

The first case of this kind was brought into court by Mario Costeja Gonzalez. In 1998 Mr Gonzalez's home was repossessed and was featured on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in America. After failing to have the link removed he took his wishes through the European court, arguing that the matters involving the repossession had been resolved and that people should no longer be able to see this information through Google when they searched his name.

The EU courts ruled that under data protection acts Google had to remove links that appear as a result of search for Mr Gonazlezs name.

Of course the downside to this is that people have the also right to know and simply hiding bad press isn’t in the publics interest. Google chairman Eric Schimt expressed his concern that the ruling had failed to strike a balance between the two. The upshot of this though is that Google’s in house legal team will subject each request to serious inspection.

On the Google legal page it says:

"We will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information”

Interestingly, Google isn’t happy about the decision and are in fact considering placing an alert at the bottom of each search result page if a link has been removed.

The right to be forgotten is a powerful weapon at the individual level and something that isn’t available for brands and businesses, though that’s not to say nothing can be done.  

Does a company have the right to be forgotten? 

The new laws are open for debate and raise some interesting ethical issues that are widely being discussed. There is a delicate balance between the right to be forgotten and the right to know, and no more so at a company level. For instance it makes sense that if a company has committed lawful wrongdoing or gone against human morality that the public have the right to know.

On the other hand, if bad press is out-dated, inaccurate or irrelevant surely companies have the right to have it removed? It’s a subject that is moving firmly into the limelight and bringing with it fresh debate over privacy and public awareness.  

Of course where there is a will, there is a way and many agencies are providing services that offer companies the chance the right to be forgotten.

New services for companies: Online Reputation Management  (ORM) 

Enter Online reputation management, one of the marketing world’s hottest and most effective strategy for dealing with bad press.

ORM involves pushing negative listings from the front page of search results, including Google, aiming to shield companies from damaging commentary of others. This can work wonders for brands seeing as 49% of us change our search terms if what we are looking for isn’t on the first page.  

Dealing with bad press can sometimes be an on-going battle for many companies and there is never a straight forward solution and the pervasive internet makes this task even harder. This is why demand for ORM is soaring with many marketing agencies quickly trying to integrate it into their skill set.

How does ORM work? 

Online Reputation management

Ironically, while many agencies want to include ORM in their services it is in fact one of the hardest tasks to undertake.  You’re not only fighting for rankings on up to 10 different sites/pages you're also competing against what many feel is a strong algorithmic component in Google's engine - QDD (Query Deserves Diversity) which impacts the types of results Google prefers to show ranking its top 10.

Online marketing agency Orchid Box take advantage of their deep understanding of search engine algorithms and a variety of ORM techniques to successfully push their client’s negative listings off of the front page.  

At times ORM involves waging war on bad press that’s hosted on very high strength sites such as the Daily Mail making the process a real challenge, but by creating fresh positive content that the search engines will feast on and distributing it through high strength blogs, sites and social platforms you can begin to push older negative listings down and out of the top 10.