Why in the News ?

Recently, Delhi High court in an important development for the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ ordered to remove one of its own judgements from easy access.

What does this right mean ?

The right to be forgotten or the right to erasure is the concept that individuals have the civil right to request that personal information be removed from the Internet. And that there must be a traceable mechanism for making sure that deleted data is also removed from backup storage media.

How did it first arised ?

The term gained attention in 2014 when a man from Spain asked Google to remove links to an old newspaper article about his previous bankruptcy, as the debt had been subsequently paid.

The European Court of Justice ruled against the search engine giant Google, declaring that under certain circumstances, European Union residents could have personal information removed or deleted from search results and public records databases.

Status in India

In 2017, Supreme Court of India recognised the right to be forgotten as being under the Ambit of the right to privacy under the Constitution of India. It also observed that if someone decides to remove personal data from the virtual space it ought to be respected.

For now individuals may request data hosts to take down some content and it may be taken down based on the policies of the respective hosts. There is a general consensus that people should be allowed to modify or delete information uploaded by themselves.

Right to be Forgotten is yet to be recognized under indian law.

Previous instances

1. In 2016, a Delhi banker, had asked to exercise his right to be forgotten after details of his marital dispute, which was settled in court, kept appearing online. The HC had sought the response of the centre, Google and an online compendium.

2. In 2017, the Karnataka high court upheld the right to be forgotten, in a case involving a woman who originally went to court in order to get a marriage certificate annulled. After an agreement between the parties, the woman’s father wanted her name to be removed from search engines regarding criminal cases in the high court and the Karnataka high court approved the father’s request.

Pros of Right to be Forgotten

1. Self determination.

2. The ability to remove embarrassing and stigmatising information from a past post or upload.

3. The removal of illegally uploaded content by third parties including ‘revenge porn’.

4. Opportunity for a fresh start.

Criticism

1. Free speech organizations and their supporters warn that the “right to be forgotten” online is in danger of being transformed into a tool of global censorship. Removing information from the Internet conflicts with the open nature of the Web and the free flow of information.

2. Google had argued that this could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses were it to be applied outside of Europe.

3. Firms like Microsoft, Wikipedia’s owner the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, among others have also raised such concerns.

Way forward

The draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, has a section on the Right to be Forgotten. But the proposed bill does not provide the right to erasure.

The Right to be Forgotten requests should be considered by the search engines with a comprehensive framework provided by the law. This will ensure limited intervention by the state or a company in the personal choices of the individuals.

RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

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