ANA Urges FTC to Dismiss “Right to Be Forgotten” Request

Association of National Advertisers issues response to Consumer Watchdog complaint 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 31, 2015 – The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) sent a letter on Friday, July 31st to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opposing a July 7th complaint by Consumer Watchdog (CW) requesting the FTC to apply European-based “Right to Be Forgotten” limitations to U.S.-based digital search company Google.  ANA strongly urged the Commission to dismiss CW’s complaint.

In its petition, CW demanded that  the FTC utilize its false, deceptive, or unfairness authority to “honor” consideration of requests to require Google to remove links to information that its users believe are “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive.”  The terms suggested in the complaint are extraordinarily broad, vague and elusive and would create dangerous precedents adversely impacting numerous other U.S. companies in addition to Google.  As the major representative of advertisers in the U.S., ANA points out that there is absolutely no legal basis, and in fact, it would be unconstitutional to allow the U.S. government to compel companies to give to these types of demands.

“Allowing ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ policies to be enforced in the U.S. would cause serious and undue harm to the public’s right to determine for itself what is important and relevant information,” said Dan Jaffe, ANA’s Group Executive Vice President for Government Relations. “Such a rule would force American companies to edit the past under the supervision of federal regulators.  Consumer Watchdog’s costly, onerous censorship proposal runs contrary to consumers’ interests, and is certainly not constitutional in the U.S.”

If the rationale underlying CW’s claims are accepted, a myriad of broad privacy protections imposed in Europe would be imposed automatically in the U.S. against any company asserting to be protective of privacy interests. 

CW’s demand requires the government to establish a pervasive regulatory regime that will impose major costs and threaten to impede the public’s right to know, while threatening to erect high hurdles to the access of information.  Indeed, CW is not asking Google to cut links to false, deceptive, or defamatory information, but to information that is likely accurate but potentially “embarrassing.” Consumer Watchdog is clearly confusing the right to privacy with the right not to be embarrassed.

Said Jaffe, “This view is unprecedented, counterintuitive, illogical, and dangerous to free expression as U.S. speech protections under the First Amendment are far more robust than is the case under European law. The FTC should rapidly repudiate this misguided proposal.”

The full letter can be found here.

About the ANA
The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) provides leadership that advances marketing excellence and shapes the future of the industry. Founded in 1910, the ANA's membership includes more than 670 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing and advertising. The ANA also includes the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Brand Activation Association (BAA), which operate as divisions of the ANA. The ANA advances the interests of marketers and promotes and protects the well-being of the marketing community.