Advocates of Freedom of Expression in the Internet see this as a violation of their rights: “When we’re talking about a broadly scoped right to be forgotten that’s about altering the historical record or making information that was lawfully public no longer accessible to people, I don’t see a way to square that with a fundamental right to access to information.” (NY Times)
Where would you side? Argue the both sides and give your opinion.
The web promises us a plethora of information and knowledge, a future where every knowledge and piece of information can be accessible to anyone, anywhere and anytime. But as to how far and how deep is allowed for us to access? Does the right to be forgotten trample on our fundamental right to access or vice versa?
The concept on the right to be forgotten has arisen from desires of individuals to “determine the development of their life in an autonomous way, without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past.”
In one of the example cases, Google vs Spain, in which the plaintiff asked that his name be removed from the newspaper articles due to the reason that whatever was there was already outdated (like a debt already being paid), and he also sought for Google Inc. to remove the links to the articles in question so that the information no longer appeared in Google Search results The court ruled that the newspaper can’t remove it but ruled Google to remove the links related to the article.
In this situation, I believe that the person has the right that his information can be corrected instead of it being redacted or forgotten. If it was published through a local newspaper or magazine, then the person can publish again to update, or correct the said information. History shouldn’t be altered retroactively nor it be disconnected from the information database. Rather, an update should be added in relation to this article to prevent misinformation.
Other cases can go to more personal like things that they have done in the past that can be deemed scandalous or embarrassing that might affect their future. In this situation, I truly understand an individual’s desire to be able to live without being stigmatized by a past action. However, a question would rise up – who is qualified to apply to for this, and will this system be also abused?
Taken for example a politician, made some scandalous headline, it was published over the internet and went viral for a while, and after a few years the issue has died down – then will they be able to apply for the right to be forgotten? Or if not directly, the immediate family of the politician is also affected by the said scandal, can they also invoke this right?
Society has it’s ways of letting issues die down. If for instance, the said issue recirculates again, I think it can be traced back to a certain publisher or media outlet. In this way, the victims can directly request the publisher to take it down, and not go after Google. Google is simply an indexer, an automated tool which simply shows what a user searches for intentionally. Just like any tools, they are used for a certain purpose. A knife is purposed to cut meat and vegetables, but if it’s used for murder – we do not sue the store who sold it nor the manufacturer who made it – we go after the person who committed the crime.
Therefore, in my opinion, Google or any other search engine in particular should not be held responsible in implementing the right to be forgotten. In contrast to our fundamental right to information access, search engines are not the ones who provides articles to knowledge databases, they simply index them for us. If by any chance Google is taken down, we can still access knowledge databases directly if we know the links to the said academic journals; and similarly we can still access articles of the people who wished to be forgotten if their articles still exist in the media outlet’s website.
In conclusion, I am all for the right to information access, and at the same time I also believe in the right to be forgotten. But if in the process of invoking the right to be forgotten I have to severe the access to true and factual information – then I would say that truly “some things should never be forgotten.”