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The right to be forgotten

The right to be forgotten

What is right to be forgotten ?- It is about the individuals having a right under certain circumstances to force search engines to remove links about them from the past. It is a very important right nowadays because in an era when everyone keeps posting daily their life data, information,  maybe a future public figure would not like to be seen. 

Coming to its legal force, we can say that the right to be forgotten is an actual legal concept that has already been recognized in the European Union and other parts of the world. It is also a concept that is foreign and contrary to established First Amendment principles.

Because everyone would like at some point to erase certain information or content from the internet, it is very obvious that this kind of right requires certain circumstances where this applies. They are outlined in Article 17, the GDPR.

So, an individual has the right to have their data erased in the following situations:

  • Personal data is no longer necessary for the purpose an organization originally collected or processed it.
  • An organization is relying on an individual’s consent as the lawful basis for processing the data and that individual withdraws their consent.
  • An organization is relying on legitimate interests as its justification for processing an individual’s data, the individual objects to this processing, and there is no overriding legitimate interest for the organization to continue with the processing.
  • An organization is processing personal data for direct marketing purposes and the individual objects to this processing.
  • An organization processed an individual’s personal data unlawfully.
  • An organization must erase personal data to comply with a legal ruling or obligation.
  • An organization has processed a child’s personal data to offer their information society services.

According to accesnow.org, in 2015, a French regulator has fined Google 100,000€ for refusing to apply the right to be forgotten worldwide. 
In this decision, the CNIL further ordered that the company apply the right to be forgotten to all domain names, as well as google.com. In response, Google held the position that CNIL had the power to order its application only on the “google.fr” domain. 

In its ruling, the Court has established that the right to be forgotten should be applied to all domain names from the European Union — which are “to google.fr”, also to “google. it”, “google.de”, “google.nl” and so on. The Court justified this decision by showing the fact that the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation requires a more consistent and more harmonized level of protection for the users across the EU. The Court furthermore added that each European Union state is, however, empowered to close this scope to protect freedom of information, paving the way for a patchwork of different approaches across the European Union which could further have complicated the situation.

In 2016 Google introduced a geo-blocking feature that prevents European users from being capable of seeing delisted links on the internet.
But it resisted censoring search results for people in several other parts of the world. Therefore the firm challenged a 100,000 ($109,901; £88,376) euro fine that CNIL had tried to impose.

In my personal opinion, restricting citizens of one state of the European Union to see some content, and leaving it available for the other states’ citizens, moreover for the rest of the world, can be useless. Considering that nowadays the world has become more open and everyone can have access to any information which can even be hidden from the users of that specific country, because now there are many ways to view content what is restricted for your country, the most popular of which is VPN system, or it can be also a variant asking a friend of a neighbor country or state to help with this or that information, which can not be found in your country.

Talking about my country,  Armenian legislation does not have direct articles quoting this right, but we have articles stating that removal or remission of the conviction eliminates all legal consequences of the conviction. Unfortunately till now, we do not have any judicial cases in Armenia about individuals asking for their right to be forgotten.

It’s interesting also to note that statistics from Google’s most recent Transparency Report reveal that the search engine took stock of 1.2 million web pages in its right-to-be-forgotten evaluations, eradicating 42 per cent of problematic links, the majority of which were Facebook-borne. And the countries with the highest request numbers are France and Germany. The question here is whether it takes into account if someone is a public or private figure, whether it considers crimes to be minor, and whether embarrassing incidents took place during a person’s private or professional life.

To conclude, the right to be forgotten is somehow important but also questionable and not definitely accepted right. It deals with information technologies, search services and considering the globalization and transparency in which the online world lives it’s hard to distinguish borders and limits where individuals rights with search engines algorithms cross. Considering also that nowadays many people will want to erase episodes or stories from their  online life,  having strict guidelines and clearly written requirements in which the information can be removed are undoubtedly important and useful. 

Last but not least, I am sure that the judicial cases and precedents will show the importance and the practical impact of this right, not locally but most importantly having its influence globally and acting as examples and models for other countries and their court cases.

Astghik Kirakosyan

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