Erasing Data Online
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Law and Politics

Erasing Data Online

E.U.'s "Right To Be Forgotten"

WHAT IT IS

  • In 2014, the E.U.'s top court passed the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). [The New York Times]

  • Article 17 of the GDPR describes "the right to be forgotten", or the process for someone living in the E.U. to erase personal information online. [BBC]

  • This right requires a server to remove material about a person if requested, and if the information is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” [Fortune]

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  • For example, if the unwanted information is available through a Google search, the person or company can request the information be removed from the search results. [NPR]
  • Companies or servers that do not comply could face fines. [Vox]
  • GDPR has established tighter data privacy laws abroad about what companies can and cannot do with personal data. [The New York Times]

WHY IT MATTERS

Understanding the law and its implications could help the U.S. government and public decide if there should be an American GDPR and right to be forgotten. 

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THIS IS A GOOD THING

Human rights

Following World War II, privacy became an international human right. [Oxford Academic

 

Many believe that this law helps update the legal scope to the 21st century. 
 

 

T.M.I.

Many individuals have made the mistake of sharing too much online, which can result in a wide variety of negative consequences. There should be a way to correct this.

 

 

Control

A lot of personal information is bought and sold by third parties. [NPR] This law allows individuals to have more control over how personal data is available and used.

THIS COULD GO VERY BADLY

Sketchy behavior

Some worry that European companies, public leaders, E.U. officials or entities will use the law to promote censorship; that they remove incriminating information that they don't want the public to know. [Wired]

 

 

Bad for business

Some believe that E.U.'s GDPR is bad for business [Inc.]. This belief is also held in the U.S. and is pointed to for reasons not to pass similar legislation.

 

 

History rewritten?

Some worry that this law could result in "history rewritten." [The Guardian]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Feb 2018: 655,000 requests demanding the removal of almost 2.5 million links. [Fortune]

  • Servers have removed about 43% of requests. About 89% of the requests were private individuals; 5% were kids. [NPR]

  • Politicians and government officials asked for almost 34,000 links to be "scrubbed" from Google’s results. Celebrities and other non-government public figures asked for over 41,000 removals. [Fortune]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • 55% of Americans believe the government should do more to regulate technology companies such as Google and Facebook. [Axios]

  • Recent emails and notices on websites about updates to privacy policies signal that many U.S. companies are complying or following E.U.'s stricter lead. [Vox]

  • Learn more about censorship through the ACLU.
  • Learn more about GDPR compliance for businesses.
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