Do you ever wish you could erase embarrassing photos of yourself from the Internet? Or the negative comments people make about you on other’s Facebook pages?
If you’re rich and powerful, you can do so more easily in most cases.
Online reputation has become new territory to navigate with the advent of the Internet. Along with the ability to easily communicate with anyone in the world comes the chance that your name can be tainted with widespread reach.
Anything about you that finds its way to the web – a defamatory remark, an embarrassing photo, bad press – can exist forever in search results. And while you might not have anything to worry about with yourself, what if you want to find out if someone else has a criminal history, or a past of misdeeds?
“Erasing” A Criminal Past
Tevfik Arif, a Russian government official and former business partner of Donald Trump, is currently trying to erase all references of his arrest in an underage prostitution bust from the Internet.
He has demanded that all websites which have published the allegedly defamatory information remove the stories.
This scandalous detail about the former Soviet trade minister’s past has come to light recently because some of Trump’s former business associates have become of interest to the Justice Department’s investigation of Russia’s possible influence in the 2016 election.
It was in 2010 that Arif was arrested aboard the world’s largest luxury yacht; accused of setting up wealthy businessman with Russian and Ukrainian hookers.
He was later acquitted of the charges. But the bad press resulting from the arrest has been an issue to face.
Through Turkish courts, Arif has blocked news stories about the controversy from publications such as the Huffington Post, New York magazine, the New York Daily News, and The Daily Beast. These stories cannot be accessed by internet browsers using Turkish IP addresses.
He has also sent four takedown requests to Google and one to Automattic since May.
The Right To Be Forgotten
In 2014, a European Union court ruled that people have the “right to be forgotten” from online search results – meaning anyone can send a request to Google to have his or her information removed from the search engine results.
Google would have to evaluate each request; saying they would balance the “privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information.”
The results of this ruling potentially give the rich and powerful more leverage over covering up their misdeeds. Evident in the story above, it is possible for a highly publicized individual to block access to information about a disreputable past.
You Never Really Can “Erase” Your Crimes
Here’s a fun fact about public records: They are public property. That means you have the right to access public records. Keep in mind though that state law varies which documents can be disclosed to the public.
And because of the The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that was established in 1966, anyone has the right to request access to federal agency records, so long as those records aren’t protected from disclosure (there are nine exemptions).
Generally, a public records search can potentially show the contact information, personal details, criminal records, associates and relatives, property records, social media data, professional information, court records of an individual.
If the rich and powerful think they can completely hide their crimes from the Internet, there are still public records: information one generally cannot cover-up. There is the potential one can have a crime expunged, but even that is a lengthy legal process.
This is why a public records search can potentially provide more established information on people who commit crimes—even if they have tried to hide it from Google.