The Right To Be Forgotten is the concept that people have the civil right to request that personal information is removed from the Internet.
If this information – which includes content, images, and videos – is removed then it means it cannot be found by search engines. And it no longer appears in search results.
Irrelevant, unwanted or dated content online can be severely damaging to your personal and professional reputation. Links to this type of information can give people a negative perception of your character. This affects both you and the people around you. It harms your job prospects, financial backing and much more. Which is why people use the Right To Be Forgotten.
The Right To Be Forgotten, the right to erasure, became EU law as part of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) legislation introduced in 2018.
This allows people to request that data about them is removed from an organisation’s database – regardless of the reasons. It’s a concept that came under rapid fire from businesses and censorship advocates. But it stands. And companies must comply with the law.
This means acting on a request as soon as it is made or facing financial penalties. Under GDPR this can be as much as 4% of a company’s turnover, or £20 million.
But the Right To Be Forgotten actually predates GDPR. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled in a Spanish case that individuals have The Right To Be Forgotten online. This ruling, within the European Union only, makes Google responsible for removing ‘irrelevant’, ‘no longer relevant’ or ‘outdated’ information from personal search results.
The ruling only applies to a personal issue. You can’t submit a Right To Be Forgotten request for any business or commercial content, images or videos.
You can, but there are certain criteria. Right To Be Forgotten requests involve erasing personal references from search engines. This can include press coverage, outdated articles, pictures or videos. Even social media and directory services that publish your personal information.
Google has a long-established procedure for dealing with Right To Be Forgotten requests.
When you make an application, Google will balance your privacy rights with what’s in the public’s interest to know and the right to distribute information. This is where it helps to have professional advice, and consult experts like Igniyte who can look into the legal aspects for you.
It’s also worth knowing that the Right To Be Forgotten also needs balancing against rights including freedom of expression – so information that is considered to be in the public interest is unlikely to be removed.
You can use this form to submit a Right To Be Forgotten request.
GDPR, which applies to all EU member states and organisations using EU citizens’ data (since 25 May 2018), updates the definition of the Right To Be Forgotten (based on the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive).
In Article 17, it keeps the 1995 Directive’s intent to allow people to request their data is deleted when it’s no longer relevant. It also increases this right, to give people more control over who can access and use their personal data.
Under GDPR, an EU citizen can request an organisation deletes their personal data if:
In all of these cases, the organisation must delete the data as soon as possible. If the data is public, it must take “reasonable steps, including technical measures” to inform any other entity processing the data that the subject wants it to be removed.
However, if the data is deemed to be in the public interest, the requests don’t have to be honoured.
The UK is still part of the EU, and so all data protection rules in GDPR still apply to UK data processing. Post-Brexit, some sections of GDPR will be enshrined into UK law as part of the European (Withdrawal) Act. There will be no change in the foreseeable future.
Google will assess requests case by case. The search engine can ask you for more information to inform its decision. But, the main thing to note, is that Google will balance your privacy rights with what’s in the public’s interest to know and the right to distribute information. Google can and does refuse applications where there is an alternative solution, technical reason or duplicate URL.
Many factors are taken into account. For example, the person’s professional life, a past crime, political or public position. Or it could be whether the content is self-authored, is in a public document or is journalistic.
Google received 732,000 requests since the 2014 ruling, asking for 2.7 million links (as of October 2018) to be removed. It has delisted 44% of the links requested.
To submit a request under the Right to Be Forgotten law, you need:
For more information, and to find out how Igniyte can help you with Right To Be Forgotten applications, please get in touch.
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