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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently ruled that European citizens have the “right to be forgotten” online. This essentially means search engines, How Do Search Engines Work? How Do Search Engines Work? To many people, Google IS the internet. It's arguably the most important invention since the Internet itself. And while search engines have changed a lot since, the underlying principles are still the same. Read More such as Google, are required to remove links to content that is outdated or no longer relevant when it’s requested.

Opinions on the idea of a legal right to be forgotten vary wildly. Some consider it a step in the right direction for privacy, while others argue it’s at odds with the freedom of expression. And now we want to know what you personally think of this idea.

Who Are You Again?

We want to know, Do You Want The Right To Be Forgotten? While this is a ruling only covering Europe, if it proves to be both technically possible and of use to ordinary citizens, then it could spread to the rest of the world. So please, wherever you are based, feel free to take part in the discussion.

To understand more fully what the right to be forgotten is and isn’t, you should read our Tech News Digest coverage of it. Or watch Technophilia 113, where the subject was discussed openly.

It was during this episode of the MakeUseOf podcast that a difference of opinion between Americans and Europeans was revealed; the Americans argued that freedom of speech trumped everything, while the Europeans condoned at least some right to privacy. Do your personal feelings lend weight to this trend?

right-to-be-forgotten

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The full implications of this ECJ ruling are yet to be understood. However, Google is known to be working on a tool for easily managing these requests for the right to be forgotten, and every day brings news of new requests flooding in.

The Spanish man who is the subject of the ruling wants the foreclosure notice on a previous home to be removed from searches. BBC News reports on other requests from an “ex-politician seeking re-election,” a “man convicted of possessing child abuse images,” and a doctor who received “negative reviews from patients.

You may be sympathetic to some of these people, and not others. So, do you support the right to be forgotten? Should it apply to everybody, or be judged on a case-by-case basis? Can you see yourself ever using such a law to protect your reputation? Let us know exactly what you think of the right to be forgotten in the comments section below.

Have Your Say

All comments will be read and most will be replied to, before a follow-up post is published containing the We Ask You ResultsOne reader will even win Comment Of The Week, which will be included in the follow-up post!

We Ask You is a column dedicated to learning the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Briography via Flickr

  1. Allie
    May 24, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    YES yes yes. Where I go is MY business. Forget me please.

    • Dave P
      May 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Would you maintain that line in all cases, no matter the circumstances?

    • dragonmouth
      May 26, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Do you maintain that any and all data about any and all individuals be in the public domain?

  2. R A Myers
    May 23, 2014 at 1:54 am

    The most agregious category of entities I'd like to forget me is vendors I've made one time purchases from because the were the only, lowest total cost or only online source and that I'll never need to purchase from again.

  3. A41202813GMAIL
    May 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I Have A Car And A Computer - Only Misdemeanor Stuff.

    So, No Need To Be Forgotten, Yet.

    Cheers.

  4. Tom W
    May 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    First of all, I feel sorry for the Spanish man in question. He's been through a lengthy court-battle that ended in a historic ruling in his favour. Old and irrelevant search engine links will be removed now, but a lot of new articles covering the story have been created, meaning that he is in exactly the same position as before. I haven't written his name here, but it only took me about 5 minutes to find the ruling that names him.

    I think this situation is very simple. A private citizen has a right to privacy in every case where information about them is not of public interest. Basically, if the information being public could protect another person from physical, mental, emotional, or financial harm, it should be public. In all other cases, it should be private if that is what the citizen wants.

    The information being removed from search engines doesn't prevent it from being found if it is required to make an informed decision. For example, if someone fails to pay their mortgage and has their house taken away, that information is available to any financial institution who is looking to give that person a loan. They won't need to Google it, so it won't matter whether it's on Google or not. Any instance where this isn't true indicates a broken system that needs to be fixed.

    Finally, an important point is that people change. I won't be the same person tomorrow as I am today. The change will be very small, but over the course of several years the cumulative changes are very noticeable. After a few years, any information about a person becomes not just irrelevant, but unreliable. If it is still relevant, reliable, and accurate, it's likely that the information would have been re-iterated more recently and removal of the old links won't have much of an impact. Since search engines are always striving to provide relevant and accurate information, this ruling could actually help them become more useful to people.

    That's all about private citizens, which is what the ruling covered. Several of the requests, made to Google since the ruling, were made by public figures and companies. I believe that such information is always relevant, and should not be removed. If such people have changed their behaviours, beliefs, or practices, since the information was published then they should endeavour to communicate such a change publically, which will naturally rise to the top of search results and make removal of older links unnecessary.

    There's one last thing that I want to add, and this opinion will likely be an unpopular one. In the case of the “man convicted of possessing child abuse images” mentioned above, I think that a request to have the information removed should be seriously considered, as long as a suitable amount of time has passed. Our justice system works based on penance paid. Once someone has passed through the justice system and have finished their punishment, they are considered safe to re-join society. They essentially get a second chance. If you have any concerns about someone who has served their time, your primary problem is with the justice system and not the person themselves. Time and energy are better spent changing the system than on doing internet searches. In many cases, such information being available online could lead to vigilantism, which is not a good thing in any developed society. But, as I said above, removal of the information should only happen a suitable amount of time after such a person has finished serving their sentence.

    • dragonmouth
      May 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      "Since search engines are always striving to provide relevant and accurate information, this ruling could actually help them become more useful to people."
      Is this your opinion, your fervent hope, or do you know that to be fact??? How do search engines verify the information they are collecting about us? Nobody from any search engine company or any data gathering entity has ever asked me if the information they have on file about me or my family is accurate. The data gathering is so pervasive and egregious that it is impossible to know who, what where, when and how has collected data about us, and therefore, it is impossible to even begin to get the data expunged.

      While in theory, all that you wrote sounds great, in practice it is all horse puckey. To illustrate - For years people have been fighting with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion to have incorrect, irrelevant and unreliable financial data corrected an/or deleted from those companies' databases. These companies refuse to do so. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence of their errors, even when presented by court orders to make the changes, these companies do not make them, leaving hundreds, if nit thousands of people with erroneously ruined credit ratings. These are only three entities. How many other entities maintain erroneous data which they are loathe to correct?

    • Dave P
      May 26, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      I actually agree with most of what you have said in this comment. Even the alleged paedophile, who, as you say, has already served the punishment deemed appropriate for his crimes.

    • dragonmouth
      May 26, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      If that pedophile moved into the next house/apartment to you, wouldn't you want to know? Or would you rather wait for the wheels of justice to grind on after he molested your kid(s)? What takes precedence in your mind, Dave, some abstract sense of fair play for a pervert or your children's safety and well-being?

    • Dave P
      May 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Sure, on a personal level I would prefer to know. But, rightly or wrongly, I trust in the justice system. If someone has served the sentence deemed appropriate for their crime then shouldn't they be given the chance at a fresh start?

      It shouldn't be Google deciding someone deserves to keep on paying for their crime.

    • dragonmouth
      May 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      "But, rightly or wrongly, I trust in the justice system."
      Unfortunately the justice system is reactive, not proactive. It closes the barn door after the horse has fled.

      "It shouldn’t be Google deciding someone deserves to keep on paying for their crime."
      Pretty soon objections such as yours will be irrelevant since Google, Facebook, etc will own and run the world and they will do whatever they feel like.

  5. dragonmouth
    May 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    "Do You Want The Right To Be Forgotten?"
    No, I want the right to never be remembered, to never have data about me collected. If "they" do not collect data about me, then there will be no need for me to be forgotten.

    Of course, you do realize that there is no such thing as "being forgotten"? While the ruling by ECJ is noble and a great legal precedent, in practical terms, it is meaningless and worthless. How do we ascertain that 100% of the data in question is expunged ("forgotten")? Databases are like roach motels - data checks in and never checks out. Data may be deleted from a database but still exists on every backup of that datatbase. Besides, data is power, data is money. Therefore, no entity will ever, willingly or unwillingly, get rid of the data it has accumulated.

    • Finnen
      May 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Yeah, you're right. For example, I was having my own company three years ago. I closed it but, ofcourse, my company's addresses and phone numbers were still in Google, even though I didn't ask for it. It was hard but I managed to find every piece of info about my company, wrote an e-mail to the publisher and they removed it. I got to the point where writing my name in Google showed only my personal information (Facebook, G+, that kind of stuff).

      Unfortunately, that didn't last for long. Information about me was still in some databases that are constantly being sold from one company to another and when I write my name in Google, a new websites appear with my company's contact information, even though everything is already outdated. The problem is, as you said, companies will never ever willingly remove the data they accumulated. Companies sell databases like that to eachother. New websites buy it and publish it all again.

      However, I believe that the "Right to be forgotten" law still is a step in good direction, but we need more than one step. Past is past and that's it. I don't see a reason why outdated information should be still showing up in Google. "Because others can find out what you were up to!!" - some will say. And why they would even should be able to do that? That's the problem with Internet in my opinion. Everything you do, everything you say, every mistake you make - once is out there, there's no stopping it. It's far worse than a stupid gossip in real life. People should have much more control over things that are directly tied to their public profile, name or personal information.

    • Dave P
      May 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      If no data was ever collected then search engines would be less than useless and the Web would be virtually impossible to navigate.

    • dragonmouth
      May 26, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      BOVINE EXCREMENT, Dave!

      Don't tell me that search engines would go out of business if they didn't know about Uncle Joe's hemorhoids and Aunt Tillie's acid reflux. There is petabytes of public domain data for search engines to work with. They DO NOT need everybody's private data.

    • Dave P
      May 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      You've gone a little off-topic here. The right to be forgotten is all about search engines continuing to direct people to stories about individuals long after than information has ceased to relevant. My point is that is search engines didn't point you anywhere then they would cease to be of any use.

    • dragonmouth
      May 27, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      And again I re-iterate:
      There are petabytes of public domain data for search engines to work with. They DO NOT need everybody’s private data.

      This is where we differ. I don't think that private/personal data is none of anybody's f'ing business. You seem to think that without ALL data on EVERYBODY, the search engines will wither away. If their business model is to be nosy, obnoxious and trampling all over people's privacy, then let them - the sooner, the better. Unfortunately you are going to get your way much sooner than I will. Search engines will make Big Brother look like a rank amateur.

  6. Harshit J
    May 22, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Yes, why not? If the reason for forgetting is justifiable, then one should have this right. Yes it should be judged on a case-by-case basis to prevent misuse.

  7. ReadandShare
    May 22, 2014 at 2:17 am

    Websites can do whatever they want to collect info about me. And I do my best to block them. Go Adblock!!

    • Dave P
      May 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Ah, AdBlock, killing the revenues of your favorite websites one after the other.

    • dragonmouth
      May 26, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Ah, the old straw man that AdBlock is going to kill the Internet. AdBlock has been in use for quite a few years by now. The Internet is growing by leaps and bounds, as robust as ever.

      Which brings up a related point. If sites want to collect data about me, they should pay me for that data. Why should sites collect data about me for free but when I would like that data from them, they charge me for it?

    • Dave P
      May 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      The Internet is growing, but revenues for websites most certainly is not. If people keep using AdBlock then sponsored posts and linkbait are going to become the norm.

      Who is charging you for data? Looking at an ad doesn't equal being charged.

  8. altman
    May 22, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Time to leave Google products and use alternatives.

    • Steve S
      May 22, 2014 at 10:41 am

      AMEN!!

    • Jeremy G
      May 26, 2014 at 2:19 am

      Its always time to leave Google, but the service advantages, in my opinion, outweigh the risks.

    • Dave P
      May 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      The same problem exists with other search engines, so I'm not sure Google is the problem here.

  9. Nick C
    May 22, 2014 at 1:35 am

    I think they should because after a while they become irrelevant.

    • Dave P
      May 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      Is there anyone, or any subject matter, you think should be excluded from the right to be forgotten?

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