11 March 2011

Digital Oblivion: To Be Or Not To Be?

1 if 3 Zoom blur experiment - Woodphoto © 2008 Mike Baird | more info (via: Wylio)

Have you ever tried to search the web for information relating to yourself?
If yes, how accurate were the results that showed up, say, in Google?
And what would you do if you found information or data that were not really up-to-date, or were inaccurate or even libelous?

Well, you might rely on the law of data protection and undertake certain actions. And if you are domiciled in Spain, which is known for its higher standards on data protection, your actions are likely to be more fruitful than elsewhere.
This is at least what the story of the Spanish doctor Guidotti Russo evidences.


that a 20 years old newspaper article covering some accusations against you, is still being accessible via Google’s search engine. Imagine further that, in the mean time,  you have been cleared from all those accusations.
What would you do? Or put another way, what are the remedies you may rely upon?

The law on data protection

in the European Union is approximated by the Directive 95/46/EC. Accordingly, its Article 6 provides that “… every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that data which are inaccurate or incomplete… are erased or rectified.”
This is what Dr Russo appears to have requested before the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, namely that Google be ordered to cease the access to that newspaper article.
Not surprisingly, Google, asserting the right to information access, did not obey and the issue landed before an ordinary court in Madrid.
From what I read, this court has been considering to ask the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling.

Other commentators on the Web did already make a link between this case and

“The right to be forgotten”

which the European Commission recently presented in its communication COM(2010)609. That oddly named right seems to be a part of Commission’s plan to revise the data protection rules, in order to strengthen individuals’ rights.
The Commission defines it as “the right of individuals to have their data no longer processed and deleted when they are no longer needed for legitimate purposes. This is the case, for example, when processing is based on the person’s consent and when he or she withdraws consent or when the storage period has expired;”

Hmm, I do not see any significant difference to the language of the Data Protection Directive I quoted above. Do you?
So, I guess clarifications will follow.
Anyway, my personal opinion is that a right to be forgotten should result in a mechanism of data self-destruction or data fading away which individuals should be able to configure as they like. Equally important, such right should be incapable of being contractually waived. 

Once introduced, however, a right to be forgotten will very likely collide with another fundamental right –

The right to access information

It is obvious – in today’s information society the right to access information has become important more than ever. Data or information that is subject to a self-destruction will, however, seriously challenge that rights’s fundamental character.
At a first glance, this argument seems to hold water.
But hey! What data should the right to be forgotten concern?
Is it not about personal data?
And since it is, why should someone else’s right to access my personal data trump my right to determine whether that someone should access it in the first place?

Invitation to discuss

For me, the existence of a digital oblivion right evokes questions upon questions. It appears to be a really promising discussion topic, does it not?
Hence, do not hesitate to tell me what you think about it!


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Comments (10)

  1. 11 March 2011
    Flash Games said...

    Thank you..really informative!!

  2. 13 March 2011
    Submit Articles said...

    I did not find what I was looking for but thouroughly enjoyed the website anyway. Keep up your very nice website.

  3. 17 March 2011
    Emil A. Georgiev said...

    An article of today’s Guardian makes a very good supplemental read to this blog post – http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/mar/16/eu-social-network-sites-privacy

  4. 19 March 2011
    free mp3 said...

    i like it Digital general pardo: To Be Or Not To Be? « The Reguligence Weblog very of tardy im your rss reader

  5. 26 March 2011
    Spolly said...

    After reading your article, i am very happy that i grew up when there was no i-net and also no one, who was interested in me, otherwise…

    • 26 March 2011
      Emil A. Georgiev said...

      It is nothing new: a problem did occur, which had previously not existed. As this problem grounds on a contemporary technology development its solution should originate from the very same technology.

  6. 1 April 2011

    Howdy! Good read i think your blog post is fabulous with sublime info which i will add to my bookmarks. Thank you very much.

  7. 13 April 2011

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  8. 2 January 2012
    Brassic Bhai said...

    in my opinion, right to be forgotten is an even more hazy concept than right to privacy. the digital world is only storing only what has happened actually on the ground (in this case, that newspaper article). anybody can still access that newspaper article in the analogue world however at great cost and at great difficulty. it is not that the digital world is enabling something new, it is merely reducing the cost part to absolutely zero that people would now be easily able to search public information upon anyone. the right to be forgotten, once enabled for the digital space, will make things workably dumb in the analogue world. will then someone tomorrow go out to that newspaper’s office and tell them to burn their archived news items simply because he has a right to be forgotten?

    • 7 January 2012
      Emil A. Georgiev said...


      I personally support the right to be forgotten, however limited to the digital sphere. Such right will be of a huge importance, since the information society is capable of producing and storing tremendous amounts of data (whether correct or incorrect) and of enabling anybody on the Internet to easily access such information. Basically, the right to be forgotten is being discussed as a furtherance of the currently existing rights under the directive 95/46/EC and to the extent I am familiar with it, it is not meant to unfold implications with respect to the analogue world. Hence, the right to be forgotten does not intend to erase information, but to reasonably limit the access to and, hence, abuse of it.

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