The recent European Court of Justice ruling regarding the “right to be forgotten” has altered many things for many people, including the people who use Google for background checks like the rest of us – The recruiters.
So what changes will be made by recruiters given the ECJ’s ruling about the need for the search engines to remove “inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive” information at the request of the very people recruiters are checking out?
Requests granted under the “right to be forgotten” ruling will force Google, Bing et al to eradicate links so that the information doesn’t appear on search results, remaining undiscoverable.
Understandably, recruiters and other commentators have warned that the ruling could detrimentally impact the screening process. If access to certain data is removed, will it cause the “wrong” candidates to be hired? Or is it actually better for people’s job prospects?
One notion suggests that removing old links can only make screening fairer. Searching the internet presents recruiters with information that they wouldn’t ordinarily see, which might then prompt subconscious, prejudiced decisions about an applicant.
A spent conviction, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that an applicant won’t perform well in a role. What if the information that was posted was slanderous or not proven? Removing associations between such content and an individual surely must improve screening, preventing recruiters from unfairly discounting people.
Or could it have the opposite effect? Will the removal of links cast suspicions on an applicant? Jonathan Zittrain, writing for ft.com, wonders whether a “specific notice that a search on someone’s name is missing something could lead to negative interference about the person – which might be worse than the substance of whatever has been removed”.
Google’s senior vice-president for corporate development and chief legal officer, David Drummond, said that the company is doing its best to be transparent but can’t “be specific about why we have removed the information, because that could violate an individual’s privacy rights under the court’s decision”.
It’s been proposed that search engines could keep “an independent database of takedowns”, but would this “resource” eventually form part of the screening process, with the results being used against an individual?
Individual rights v public rights
Mashable says Google has received more than 70,000 requests from aggrieved individuals since the ruling was made. The big dilemma, however, is achieving a balance between an individual’s right to be forgotten with the public’s right to know certain information.