Whether you agree with the spirit of it or not, the EU now has a policy that requires search engines to remove certain types of information at the request of users. This is part of their Right to Be Forgotten law and, if you live in the EU, it’s unavoidable.
Google is considered to be a data-controlling company under this law, as are all search engines, so they’re responsible for removing information when it infringes upon specific rights guaranteed by the Right to be Forgotten. That means, if you’re in the EU and you search for someone on Google, you’ll get the EU version of the results, which might omit information you very much want to know.
Good or Bad, It’s Reality
In some ways, the Right to be Forgotten is a privacy advocate’s dream come true. Under this rule, a search engine is required to remove information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” One of the positives of this law, for many people, is that a search engine provider’s profits do not constitute a valid reason to violate someone’s right to be forgotten. The information is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and the court determines if there is a compelling public interest in keeping that information available or not. If not, it has to be taken down.
This means that some embarrassing information, that’s not really relevant to anyone but the person it references, could be removed, providing a potentially effective way to fight cyberbullying and libeling via spamming search engine results. It could also mean that, just as an example, you could get embarrassing photos of yourself taken down off of search engine results and not have to worry about them coming up when someone searches your name for a job interview or other vital purpose.
However, the right to be forgotten might also mean that you cannot find information that would be relevant to you if you’re searching for someone in an unofficial capacity. For instance, those aforementioned party pictures might be good information to have if you’re planning on going out on a date with someone and want to know what to expect, or if you should go at all.
There is a way around the right to be forgotten. The rule only exists in the EU and, with a VPN, you can search Google and get results that might be taken out of the EU results, but that would show up in other nations. Here’s how you do it.
Turn on the VPN, Get the Information You Need
We have yet to run across a VPN service that doesn’t have servers located in the US, so this should work for anyone, no matter which service you use.
Turn on your VPN and connect to a US server. Go to Google’s homepage and verify that you’re on “Google.com,” which is the uncensored version of the search engine that appears in the US.
Execute your search from that page and you’ll get the full results. If your TLD is that of a European nation—de, nl, etc.—you won’t have access to the complete results, so be sure to verify it beforehand.
Beyond the EU
While the EU’s Right to Be Forgotten might be a bit inconvenient if you want to research someone you’ve just met, there are plenty of nations that have far more restrictive policies regarding what you’re allowed to see on the Internet. China, Saudi Arabia; there are plenty of other examples out there.
VPNs can provide free access to information in those nations. Be sure you can use an anonymous form of payment and that the VPN usage can’t be traced back to you, if you’re worried about legal issues that might stem from using a VPN.
If you need a provider, be sure to check out our list of VPN services.