The Free Internet Project

The Right to Be Forgotten -- explained

The right to be forgotten is a fundamental right that is recognized in the 28 countries of the European Union, plus members of the European Economic Area/European Free Trade Association, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.  The right derives from the EU Charter’s right of “rectification” in Article 8 and Article 12(b) of the Data Protection Directive’s right of “rectification, erasure or blocking of data the processing of which does not comply with provisions of this Directive, in particular because of the incomplete or inaccurate nature of the data."  

In a key ruling on May 13, 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union interpreted the right to include a right for people to request from Google or other search engines the delisting of links to articles from searches of their names if the articles are

  • "inadequate, irrelevant or excessive in relation to the purposes of the processing," or
  • "not kept up to date, or … kept for longer than is necessary."  

For example, Google granted the request of "a crime victim to remove 3 links that discuss the crime, which occurred decades ago."  Although the original story remains online at the website of the publisher, a search for the crime victim's name no longer produces results with links to the article in Europe. Or, at the request of a woman in Italy, Google removed links to "a decades-old article about her husband's murder, which included her name."