MTE Explains: What Is The "Right to Be Forgotten"?

If you have followed the news in Europe, you may have heard about a little something called the "right to be forgotten", which has become a strong topic in the technology sphere only after politicians have begun introducing legislation bearing the insignia of the protection of privacy. But what exactly is the "right to be forgotten", and can we even enforce such a right? How far-reaching are the consequences and benefits of this legislation? While many of the news reports explain it in passing, this concept deserves to be dived into in more detail.

Let's Define it!

The right to be forgotten, as the name implies, is a new concept in European (and Argentinian) technology legislation that defines the right of an individual to have information or media that they regret uploading to be removed. That is an oversimplification, however. In the legal language of this concept, its scope is to "determine the development of [the individual's] life... without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past."

This legal project is designed to make it illegal not to remove embarrassing content upon request.

Isn't There Already A Law?


I'm not certain about Argentina, but in the European Union, Directive 95/46/EC already protects the individual right to privacy. The problem is that it doesn't get very specific on what needs to be done in this case. A European regulation was released that determined that every website using cookies had to inform visitors that they will be tracked if they proceed. Shortly after that, the Right to be Forgotten legislation started gaining ground, specifically calling for the rights defined above.

Arguments Pro & Against

As with any legal project, there will be always two main sides in the debate. Those who are against the Right to be Forgotten point out the fact that companies like Google (the company whose alleged actions started the entire debacle) already have measures in place that allow people to request that a page be deleted from their index. Others argue that the attempt to cover one's past often leads to the "Streisand effect", which means that the more actively you try to hide something, the more public your attempt becomes, and the more people will dig into your past causing explosive embarrassment in comparison to the short-lived and slight hit you would have suffered had you been more restrained.

Those who are for the Right to be Forgotten legislation believe that regardless of the voluntary measures that have been applied unanimously across the web, it's still important to make sure that this is defined by the law. They argue that a legal framework would guarantee that the individual's right to privacy is universally uninfringed.

The reply to this from the anti camp is that the Right to be Forgotten can be abused to the extent that news reports end up being swept under the rug. And this has happened. Such a removal could come under an infringement of the "freedom of the press", which is a much older and more important concept in the law.

What about you? Do you believe that the Right to be Forgotten is something we can and should enforce? Tell us in the comments!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez - Staff Writer

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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