What is the Right to be Forgotten?
The Right to be Forgotten is the human right of the individual to request information be removed from Internet search engines and other online directories under certain, specific circumstances.
There has been a form of the right to be forgotten present in the EU since 2006, with long-standing discussions surrounding the careful balance necessary between the right to freedom of expression and free speech and people's rights to their own data and data protection.
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History of the Right to be Forgotten
As a concept, the Right to be Forgotten has been under discussion and put into practice in various jurisdictions, including the Philippines, Argentina and the European Union, for many years.
The whole idea of a right to be forgotten derives from people wanting autonomy over their data, without it being used to stigmatise them in the future. In other words, people want the right for their past actions - or simply incorrect historical information about them - to be scrubbed from the Internet so that third parties can't use it against the.
Criminal convictions are the obvious example of the kind of data use that could adversely impact the data subject.
Common arguments against the right to be forgotten
Controversy surrounds the very concept of an individual's right to be forgotten and ability to remove data from search engines.
Those arguing against the right to be forgotten in terms of data protection question the practicalities of treating such a right as an actionable, international human right.
Vague and differing regulations and differing rulings regarding its implementation contribute towards the ambiguity of applying this as a human right in practical terms.
The potential impact of such a right on other rights also causes controversy. For example, how is it possible to square the right to be forgotten with the right to freedom of expression? Furthermore, how does it work with the right to privacy and is it possible that the implementation of the right to be forgotten would lead to a less high-quality search function?
However, those who argue for the right to be forgotten citing circumstances such as revenge porn and the damage it does to people as a clear reason for it to exist. The same argument in favour includes instances of search results picking up someone's past criminal convictions or personally identifiable information.
European Court ruling in favour of the data subject over search engines
In 2014, the right to be forgotten was first officially recognised as a human right by the European Court of Justice. This was due to the ruling made in the case of Google Spain v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeka Gonzalez.
The decision was that the search engine operator (in this case, Google) must consider legal claims from people to remove their data from Google search results according to certain circumstances.
- That the search results are inadequate.
- That the search results are irrelevant or no longer relevant.
- That the search results are excessive given the length of time since publication.
The seeds of the current General Data Protection Regulation can be found in the EU's implementation of the Data Protection Directive in 1995. This directive was brought in to provide regulation for the processing of personal data. Today, this is part of human rights law.