The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

May/14

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7 Conundrums of the Right to be Forgotten

Digital Eraser

The recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has re-ignited debate about the “right to be forgotten”, or perhaps more accurately the right to have certain information purged from the Internet. While this right provides some real privacy benefits, it runs up against free speech and jurisdictional problems.

Here are seven conundrums around the right to be forgotten and the recent ECJ ruling:

  1. The ECJ ruling provides for removing search results, but not for removing the underlying web page. In the case in question, a newspaper article is allowed to stay on-line, but a search on the plaintiff’s name must not return a link to that page.
  2. While the search result would be removed when the search is the person’s name, other searches for the information would show that link.
  3. The ECJ does not give you a right to remove anything harmful or embarrassing to you, only information “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, excessive in relation to the purposes of the processing”
  4. You don’t have a right to have certain information forgotten if that is newsworthy and noteworthy. In other words, if this was likely to be searched for by a lot of people, then you can’t remove it.
  5. The ECJ ruling only applies to EU residents . If you are outside the EU, or using a search engine outside the EU then you don’t have this right.
  6. The ECJ ruling only applies to search engines operating in the EU. If the search engine is exclusively operating outside the EU, or is being accessed from outside the EU, then the search results would still be visible. This means that you would get the search results if you were using Anonymizer Universal from within the EU.
  7. The tools and laws used to enforce the right to be forgotten are very similar to the techniques used for censorship by repressive regimes. Once in place, the urge to use the power more broadly has been irresistible to governments that obtain it.


Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me onFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

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1 comment

  • david roman · June 4, 2014 at 12:52 am

    I’m interested in this case, and writing about it. Please send me an email so I can ask you a couple of follow up questions on your views. Cheers.

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