Can Someone be forgotten?

Are you embarrassed with a picture which you put on internet that cannot be removed now? To what extent will you go to remove some information about yourself from the internet? We all have that moment of insanity when we put something online without thinking. People have the tendency to search online if they require any information regarding a particular individual. Internet age, in which we live, doesn’t allow that information to be removed. It haunts us for rest of our lives. Take a simple example of Facebook statuses: if you read the statuses updated by you some years back, you will surely think, “What was I thinking?” Now imagine if you have the power to remove all this information from the internet and live in peace. European Court of Justice ruled against Google when a Spanish man filed a case to remove the details of his debt way back in 1998. Many people are calling this decision historic. The right to remove information is popularly being called, “The Right to be Forgotten”. This right allows an individual to request Google to remove any information from the search results which they think might undermine their credentials. This right is being implemented in European Union and Argentina. However, the viability of this right to be considered as a universal right is still debatable. The reason behind this is the vagueness of the concept. Some people are arguing that privacy is essential for any individual. This right will increase the privacy level and minimise the harmful impact of some foolish decisions. One silly mistake will no longer be able to harm an individual’s credentials throughout his lifetime. Many people strongly expressed their support to this decision. Privacy which is a rare commodity in this online world can now be achieved. However as every coin has two sides, there is another side to this story. After this ruling, among the first requests which Google received, one was from a person accused of child pornography. This news presents a grave situation. Imagine a world when a criminal can easily remove all the information regarding his crimes. We are presenting a very convenient option to the criminals by providing this right. This makes it a debatable topic. The question to ask is, “Can privacy be provided to people who are harmful for the society?”. Another argument against this right is that for every right to be enforced, there arises a responsibility. Thus the right to be forgotten will necessarily mean that it is someone’s responsibility to forget as well. It is as ridiculous as it sounds. It is like saying, “Hey you need to forget that I murdered Mr X in front of you because I have the right to be forgotten”. The bright side is that this right is very tough to implement in actual lives. As John Oliver in his show ‘Last week tonight with John Oliver’ says, “Internet is like a handful of sand. The more you fight against it, the more it will slip through your hands. Now everyone will remember Mario Costeja González as the guy who had a debt in 1998, the one thing that he did not want anybody to remember”. Thus only way solace for everyone is to make peace with the fact we all are human and humans make mistakes. Instead of fighting this fact we all must instead accept it. The correct question to ask is, “Do you want to forget”?


Aashish is a member of LSD. He wrote this article as he found this judgement given by the European Court of Justice impractical.

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