The Right to Be Forgotten
In May 2014, Europe's highest court ruled that European Union (EU) citizens have a "right to be forgotten," or the right to request the removal of embarrassing or irrelevant data from online search results. In fact, Google was ordered to consider EU citizen requests to effectively delete personal information about them by removing certain links and displaying a message that "some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe" when the content is researched on the web. Are you concerned about the online content that is found when executing a search? Do you find the content irrelevant or offensive? If so, you should contact our law firm to discuss your questions.
What are the arguments in support of globalizing this right?
Given the risk of online data security breaches, the right to be forgotten may be seen as a win for individuals who desire enhanced protection of and control over their personal data. In addition, proponents argue that the stronger privacy protection can be achieved at lower costs, since search engines like Google are familiar with assessing legal removal requests in other contexts (e.g., copyright violations). Further, even if a search engine, or other publisher, proves unequipped to determine the propriety of a removal, EU citizens may bring legal challenges to the determinations.
Moreover, while the European ruling can require Google to remove links from local domains in Europe, the requirements are inapplicable to the globally-accessible Google.com website. Thus, because of the ease with which European users can circumvent protections by using an unregulated Google domain, supporters ideally would like to see the adoption of a universal right to be forgotten. In other words, the inherently-global nature and accessibility of the Internet calls for global user rights.
Why is the United States hesitant to adopt this right?
One general argument against recognition of a right to be forgotten is the potential for censorship in violation of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Stated otherwise, the United States Constitution places greater emphasis on the right to access information than it does the right to have information become inaccessible. This is especially true when criminals attempt to erase convictions from their history, which can pose significant risks to public safety.
In addition, considering the potential restrictions on fundamental freedoms and the subjectivity of removal determinations, critics are uncomfortable with purportedly neutral corporations like Google acting in a judicial capacity. Critics further assert that allowing private rights of action to dispute unsatisfactory determinations is an insufficient safeguard in that the goal of the EU ruling-to detract public attention from the disputed content-would be undermined.
In sum, although the right to be forgotten ruling has considerable support in Europe, the laws have encountered opposition in America. As of now, the right to be forgotten remains a European, rather than a global privacy right.
For more information, you should consult with an attorney. At our law firm, we assist clients regarding national and international privacy rights in order to avoid legal complications.