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

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.


  1. The Right to be Forgotten is a “shut the barn door after the horse has left” legislation. I would prefer that there be legislation prohibiting the collecting of personal data to start with. However, data being as valuable a commodity as it is, there is absolutely no chance anyone will even suggest such a prohibition. “Right to be Forgotten” is also only a feel-good legislation. It will not restore true privacy to anyone. With so many databases and their backups in existence, it would take a world-wide EMP for various entities to truly “forget” about us.

    1. “I would prefer that there be legislation prohibiting the collecting of personal data to start with”

      The “right to be forgotten” has nothing to do with the collection of personal data, it has to do with removing comments/pictures that can come back to haunt a person in the future. The youth (late teens, early 20’s) of the last couple of generations have thought nothing of posting stupid/racist/sexist/embarrassing comments/pictures on the Internet. But when they’re ready to get a job (or want to get a new job), they discover that potential employers check them out on the Internet, find these things, and decide that they’re not suitable employees. Thus, people want the “right” to have these things “be forgotten” (that is, deleted from the Internet) so they don’t lose opportunities.

      1. No matter how you try, no data ever goes away on the Internet. Your indiscretions will follow you for life and possibly long after you’re dead. Once you put data on the ‘Net, you lose all control over it and NO law is going to change that. It is physically impossible to delete ALL copies of data.

        The best way to avoid embarrassing data being on the Internet, is to never post anything even remotely questionable. Yes, there is the Constitutional right to make an a$$ out of oneself but one then have to live with the consequences of one’s actions. There is no morning-after pill for stupidity.

  2. This is a futile attempt to eradicate bad behavior. It would have the world forget the Prince’s fiasco in Las Vegas, Nevada. It would have the world forget the actions of Jane Fonda during the Viet Nam War. It would have the world forget Hillary Clinton’s being fired by the Prosecution at the Nixon trial, or for that matter, Bill Clinton’s trouble throughout his public life keeping his junk in his trousers.

  3. “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.”

    Yes, but that only removes the link from from the search results…the ‘stupidity’ still exists on the page where it was originally posted, and since the reason it was in the search results is because that page was indexed, the next time the page is indexed, the link to the ‘stupidity’ comes right back. The “right to be forgotten” requires that not only the search results link be deleted, but that the ‘stupidity’ is deleted from where it was posted as well, so it can never be indexed/found again. Thus, the Internet “forgets” that the ‘stupidity’ was ever posted.

  4. Does anyone really think about wtf they make a law? I mean the shear embodiment of making this a real thing is over the top expensive and if you ask Google who are the real pros with data, how it works and how it is stored will tell you that just deleting something is near impossible, especially if it is an image since computer software does not see pictures as we do. The logistics that would need to be done are over the top and I doubt any company would take this on for fear of some ass wipe (you know the retard that posted that picture) turning around and suing them for everything they was worth when ( I dont mean that lightly) it does not work.

    I am going to stand along side dragonmouth on this one and say that legislation that forbids collecting the personal data in the first place be legal (looking at you to NSA DICKS)! To repeat what he said nothing short of a global EMP would be needed to make such a retarded law possible this late in the game anyway!

    I swear, you take a person and put them in some government office and they lose any and all touches of reality they ever had. WFT do those morons put in their mouth every day???

  5. Wow – just would like to commend the authors of the comment(s) very civil and intelligent – thank you

Comments are closed.