September 21, 2015. A politician comes in contact with a Spanish company specialized in ‘right to forget’ and ‘elimination of the past’ on the internet. The reason? Just four weeks earlier, the hacking group The Impact Team stole the Ashley Madison dating web database and broadcast the list of its 32 million users on the ‘deep web’. This Spanish politician was in it.
The politician is very nervous and angry, but not only because his data is exposed, but also for another reason: “I have already defrauded two companies,” he tells another. “They told me they were going to erase 100% of what had come out on me and they have not done anything, but I have been charged 9,000 euros between the two.” The company explains that in the specific case of Ashley Madison, little or nothing can be done and that the other two companies have deceived him.
These types of cases are not usually known, since no one dares to report them, but they are much more frequent than it seems. Spanish companies with the right to forget are unanimous: “In the last years this has been full of scammers and pirates.” We have talked to several of them. All agree to point out a wide catalog of bad practices from other competitors who “deceive customers and charge them a millionaire, but they do not solve anything”.
“They charge a lot … and do not erase anything”
Samuel Parra, a lawyer specializing in data protection and an ePrivacity partner, has had very similar things to those described at the beginning of this article: “We get clients who come bouncing and pissed because, before coming to us, they have gone to Other companies that have scammed them: they have been told that they would erase 100% of the information, they have lied to them and they have not returned the money to them.This is full of companies that defraud people.
The cases are not isolated: “It’s happening to us a lot, it’s a rare month we do not get someone like that. We’ve had politicians, entrepreneurs, first-class athletes … And they’ve all received very high amounts: 3,000, 6,000, 10,000 Euros … “.
The key to the alleged deception, says Parra, is in the agreed conditions: “In the contract they signed it puts in large that if they do not erase all the data they return the money, but then you see clauses that you know will be grabbed for Not to do it. Then you know that they will not give the service they promised. ”
For Samuel Parra, the procedure for this type of company is usually the same: “When there is some leakage of celebrity data, as happened with Ashley Madison, they release announcements inventing figures of alleged victims who have already contracted their services, and with those communications They get more clients.We have it measured: about seven or eight months later, these people go to serious places because they feel cheated. ”
These types of companies, according to the testimony of the people consulted, often use different methods when it comes to the web that houses content that they want to be deleted: “If it is a serious newspaper and the information is true, it goes To be difficult, “says Parra. “But there are times when it is a forum or a blog, and the practice is usually to send a threatening email to frighten the responsible. In emails, they invoke laws that sound good – but not applicable – Put articles from others that do not work … They try to scare the author of the content so that it erases it “.
If the previous tactic does not work, the next step is the most delicate, according to the partner of a Spanish company who prefers to remain anonymous: “There are some that directly offer money to the author of the web to erase the content. Raise that amount to the customer and that’s it “.
Samuel Parra says he has never lived such payments closely, but there are very similar situations: “Some media in Latin America have told us that if we want them to erase content, we have to do ‘like other Spanish companies’ and pay them. Trap. What we tell our customers is that if they pay, the news will be removed … but in a while it will leave a more serious one and ask for more money. “
For Selva Orejón, director of onBranding, the worst of this often lies in the price: “I have been budgeted for up to 3,000 euros by sending an ’email’ to a web page to remove content. Does not cost 3,000 euros, but not a joke “.
The experts consulted go beyond their criticism: they say that according to their experience and that of their own clients, often companies are responsible for deleting content … but also to create it.
“There are a lot of these,” Samuel Parra tells us, “so they can charge more money to customers, they may have charged for deleting the content, and some time later they will be the ones who re-create it. The first time with them, he will hire them again. “
The procedure, Parra says, can vary: “Sometimes they are simple blogs in which the same thing is done: there is content, it gets deleted and then it comes out again. Generally, these companies do not create the first content that is Publishes, but the following “.
Selva Orejón has also lived through these practices: “We have reached customers who were being erased the content and during that process, have appeared new comments or articles on websites, say, of dubious authorship.”
According to Samuel Parra, this type of practice survives thanks to an essential factor: the characteristics of the clients. “They are people with a very delicate profile, with public relevance and content that they want to eliminate. Anything that makes more noise damages them.”
That’s why “they never denounce, however deceived or cheated they feel. They know that if they do it can be even worse: they started wanting to delete something from the internet so that they would not be talked about, so a complaint would have the opposite effect “. In addition, “they know that it is not good for them to take badly with a company that, if it knows how to make a content lower in Google, it will also be able to make it rise again,” he says.
In any case, “it can not be said that all companies are like that.It is advisable that when someone comes to these companies, look at how long they have been and who is behind them.Many of the pirate organizations last a short time, they disappear when things stop Of being profitable or when they have already hit a good ‘pelotazo’.
The issue looks complicated: compromised content, a customer who wants to make the least possible noise and a percentage of companies that, without being a majority, get all the work around the so-called ‘right to forget’ is wrapped in a full dust cloud Doubts and clients who, they say, feel cheated.