The Right to be Forgotten

Take a moment and try to come up with the name of a person who is constantly posting to your social media accounts? Are they posting things that you want your future employer to see? Things that you would be okay if your grandma saw? Maybe it is your grandma posting embarrassing photos or comments to your wall that you don’t want your friends to see. If you delete these things are they really gone or can they still be found on the Internet?

Currently, a person in the United States does not have the right to be forgotten even though there is a need for this. I feel that a lot of thought will need to be put into making a decision on this topic and laying out how exactly the right to be forgotten should work. However, if done properly the ramifications could be extremely beneficial on an individual level.

In his article “The Web Means the End of Forgetting”, Jefferey Rosen mentions that a survey from Microsoft shows that 75% of U.S. human-resource professionals reported that their companies require them to search for information about potential candidates online including social media sites and search engines. This means that if your friends posted something on your Facebook that could reflect poorly on you, you could potentially be turned down for a job.

An article posted by CNN, “We Need A ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Online” informs us that Europe has voted to allow the right to be forgotten. The article makes a great statement:

We should be jealous of our friends in Europe. As Europe protects individual rights, America persists in its belief that rights are for big corporations, people be damned.

Here’s how the “right to be forgotten” works in Europe: information that is deemed old and irrelevant can be requested to be taken off the web, however, the websites don’t necessarily have to comply with the request they just have to take it into consideration and can refuse the request if they have a good reason.

So what would the ramifications be? Let me give you an example. 18-year-old Nikki Catsouras was in a gruesomely fatal car accident in California. Not long after her family buried her they began receiving anonymous emails and text messages of the photographs taken of the car accident and of her nearly decapitated body. A California Highway Patrol officer had leaked the photos and they were now circling the web. The photos made their way onto 1,600 Web Sites. These pictures are still on the web 8 years later despite the best efforts from Nikki’s parents and lawyers to get these photos taken down. If a “right to be forgotten” act where in place a judge could rule to have them taken down and it would be mandatory for the photos to be removed and Nikki’s family would not be afraid to use the internet.

I strongly feel that there is a need for a “right to be forgotten” act for people in the U.S. like Nikki’s family. We just have to be smart about how we setup this act and how we execute it but I think that when we do, we could have amazing results.



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