Tuesday 01 July 2014

Right To Be Forgotten (Or Not)

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice upheld the right of an individual to stop unwanted personal information from being circulated on the internet by a search engine. Most often, such information is of an embarrassing or sometimes criminal nature which, if wildly disseminated, may stigmatize the involved individual for life. Proponents of this right to be “forgotten” consider it a paramount element of international human right, while opponents denounce the same right as a challenge to the fundamental right to freedom of expression and as a form of global censorship. Importantly, this right is distinct from the right to privacy, with which it is frequently conflated, since it deals with information that is already publicly known but may be difficult to access otherwise. When the information concerns criminal history, the right must also be balanced against public safety. Yet, even if this right is upheld, any singular governmental effort to reinforce the right may be of limited success, as such information—once released—is likely accessible by means outside of a government’s control. Most ironically, individuals who are launching legal efforts wanting to have their own past forgotten by the internet are themselves inadvertently aiding its dissemination (the so-called Streisand effect)—placing themselves squarely in the center of public attention at where they least want to be.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Tech • Under World
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