If Barack Obama’s January-2014 speech on mass surveillance was an attempt to start a comprehensive dialogue between government, public and private companies, This new European Union(EU) ruling which requires Google to provide “Right to be forgotten” for its citizen is a big step for the privacy warriors.
What is right to be forgotten? Well as it happens with any legal language, its definition is also filled with lots of jargon and synonyms. One simple form of definition is the Individual right to get the information on the internet about him/her removed which has become obsolete or irrelevant now on request. One example will help in understanding this and I would not refer the specific case on which this ruling and future guidelines were given, people are referring that case so often on internet in context to “right to be forgotten”, which means now that person has to send several requests for the removal of new content published about that case.
The example is suppose 15 years back a person failed to repay a loan and that information was published on a website during that time. 15 years after that incident, link to that news still appears when anybody makes a search about that person on a Search Engine. Now that information has become obsolete if suppose government, companies or individuals need to know this information only if it happened in last 5 years then it does not make any sense to keep that news alive for such a long time. Now resident of EU countries can send the request to Search Engines (like Google) for removal of links to such news in the search engine. And the counter argument is still some people who want to do business with that person would like to know such information.
Complexity of Implementation: Complexity is manifold as there is lot of subjectivity involved with the “right to be forgotten” and most of the requests, manual analysis will be required to assess whether request is accepted. User has the right to approach the regulatory agencies in EU if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the request.
Process for exercising “Right to be Forgotten”:Google has provided link for submitting the request. You can check the form at Google Right to be Forgotten form . Google has made a committee for reviewing the applications which will go through all the requests.Each request has to be submitted with relevant documentation.
Would people be interested to use it: Google got 12,000 requests on the first day when it made the page live for accepting the requests which shows there are lot of people in the future in EU who want to use this feature.
Privacy issues related to Requests: All requests for “right to be forgotten” need to be accompanied with valid documents of the requesting person like Photo-id which in turn mean revealing private information to third party.
What about outside EU? This is only applicable for residents of EU countries and chances of other countries following the same looks bleak in the short term, although we will see increased pressure on government of Non-EU countries for having the same right.
My views on the future implications of this ruling: While the world is trying hard to tame the huge amount of data (big data) related to transactions and behaviour of people around the world for competitive advantage and profitability, there is a small but growing base of people who feel that they deserve to be anonymous and do not deserve to be tracked. Once that base grows to a significant number we will see increased number of restrictions on the Companies related to collection of data.
Public memory is no longer short as web, social media and increased number of contacts which Individuals have as compared to 10 years back keeps the memory fresh.
Eventually each bit of data generated on the net will have an expiry date after that the data will no longer be available. Snapchat gave the hint and need of such feature.