The Right to be Forgotten‏


File photo dated 30/05/2014 of a Google search removal request displayed on the screen of a smart phone, after BBC economics editor Robert Peston has had a blog, which was published almost seven years ago on the BBC website, reportedly set to be made unsearchable in Google in a move resulting from a court ruling about the "right to be forgotten".

With society delving deeper into the Technological Age, more and more information – wanted or unwanted – is flooding the internet.


With the ever-increasing use of social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it is not uncommon that at some point in a person’s life, s/he will have something mildly embarrassing or inappropriate posted online that s/he wants removed.


Be it an embarrassing photo at a party, a slanderous, harmful statement made by someone else, or just a thought or belief that is no longer considered to true, the popularity and expansiveness of the internet has created an increasingly universal concept of wanting to omit such things.


Sixteen years ago, a Spanish man by the name of  Mario Costeja Gonzalez experienced financial difficulties. To solve them, a property of his was put up for auction – the details of which were covered in a newspaper, which subsequently went online. The auction happened in 1998, and Mr. Gonzalez is more than ready to move on.

But there’s a problem: whenever his name is searched for, news about the auction still features prominently. He argued that this continued to damage his reputation and should be removed from Google’s search results.

The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union agreed with him, and in doing so set a major precedent over what is referred to as the “right to be forgotten”.


This ‘right’, as it is being referred to, is a practice that has been discussed and put into practice in the European Union, as well as Argentina, since 2006. More recently, the concept has received attention in the United States


The concept 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.” Basically, what this means is that if there is something online which one is under the impression that it reflects something that one no longer believes in and is currently or has the ability to prove problematic for the individual, it can be removed from search results, digitally deleting it.


On paper, this sounds very positive and beneficial, but it also creates some possibly negative situations. On the one hand, Internet users have the right to search everything that has been posted on the web. For example, one could be thinking about hiring a new employee, or someone’s daughter announces she’s got a new boyfriend, or maybe one is considering doing business with an unknown company; an individual should have the ability to run a search for everything that has been written about them on the internet.

On the other hand, if one is that potential employee, that boyfriend or that company, should one not have the right to have past references to you “forgotten” by the web? The past does not define an individual, especially if the information is irrelevant, out of date, or even false.

As with all issues, there is no immediate answer. Both sides have a fair claim to the case, and only time will tell which precedent will be set.