Do you have a right to be forgotten?

The internet has a long memory.

There are a lot of examples of different programs that take advantage of all the information you upload onto the Internet to then provide analytics and data to you about it, such as Google Analytics. Facebook timelines take advantage of the content you upload, including your photos, the dates in your life, and events you have attended to then create a timeline of your life and display it to your “followers”.

As Facebook’s success has demonstrated, this is functionality that is very popular, but some users are beginning to realize that this type of online sharing may have its drawbacks.

We have all had pictures of us shared online that we may not want everyone to see. These anxieties are heightened in situations like when you are applying for a job – your potential employer may not appreciate those pictures of you partying last Friday night.


So then how do you get the Internet to forget about you?

Well from a practical perspective, some people are very careful about what they post online. These people “self-censor” their online presence.

This has become easier in recent years. Many websites are now paying closer attention to privacy issues and allowing users to control their information online. Google+ regulates how your information is shared and who it is shared with through the “circles” concept.

There is one app that I recently heard of called ”Snapchat” that allows people to take pictures or videos and send to their friends, who can then view the content for a limited period of time which is set by the user. They can allow the recipient to view their content for between one and ten seconds. What many dismissed as a program that was useful only for sharing of risky content is being used by many as their primary option for sharing multimedia content with their friends. Snapchat’s success seems to indicate that the desire to keep social media private is growing amongst today’s users.

What do the courts and government have to say?

The Spanish courts recently ordered Google to delete any records of people’s private information that they may have on the basis that privacy laws gave people the right to be forgotten. In this case, the plaintiff was unhappy with the search results that appeared when he searched his name on Google. Specifically, references to attachment proceedings connected to his social security debts were being displayed. The plaintiff argued that these references should be deleted as the matter to which they referred to had been settled and was no longer relevant. The Spanish courts agreed with his argument.

However, the Courts of Justice of the European Union has issued a general opinion arguing that this decision was incorrect. It seems that an individual’s ability to be “forgotten” on the internet is still up in the air.

While European courts seem to be wrestling with this issue, Canadian legislators have, as of yet, refused to broach the topic of being “forgotten” on the Internet. Currently, there is no right to have your information deleted after a certain amount of time. Do you think we should have such a right?

Monica Goyal
Monica Goyal
Monica Goyal, Entrepreneur, Lawyer and Innovator is the founder of Aluvion, a legal solutions company offering technology, paralegal and lawyer-driven solutions with a special focus on the quality, cost, and accessibility of legal services for both businesses and individuals. Monica began her career working as an engineer in R&D for companies like Toshiba, Nortel and Nokia while earning her Masters of Engineering at Stanford. Monica's history conditioned her to solve problems in a efficient and tech-savvy manner, an approach she brings with her to legal solutions. Monica currently sits on the Canadian Bar Association's Futures Initiative, and will be teaching a course on Legal Technology at York University’s Osgoode Hall. She was recently named one of 10 Women to Watch in Tech in the Journal of the American Bar Association.

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