‘People Change’: ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Law Lets Poor Scrub Internet Records Like Rich Do

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Google has successfully challenged the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” in court, winning the ability to ignore the law outside of Europe. The measure provides an important check on the privilege of the rich to scrub public record of their past actions - something working people can rarely afford, a tech expert told Sputnik.

Google this week won a major case in its appeal of the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” law. Under the ruling by the European Court of Justice, Google will be required to implement the law only in Europe, not the rest of the world. 


The implementation of the “right to be forgotten law” protects the rights of the working class who, unlike the rich, often times lack the means and monetary funding to remove personal, damaging information about themselves off the internet, Patricia Gorky, a software engineer and technology and security analyst, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Wednesday.

According to Search Content Management, the “right to be forgotten” is the concept that people have the “civil right to request that personal information be removed from the internet.”

“So, what happened recently is that Google has won this case before the European Court of Justice, basically saying that the ‘right to be forgotten’ does not need to be applied outside of Europe even if it has consequences for European citizens. Now, there are - in terms of what this concept is and in terms of what is the ‘right to be forgotten’ -  there are a number of ways to apply this and on the individual level,” Gorky told host John Kiriakou.

“Fundamentally, the ‘right to be forgotten’ is the concept that individual people should be able to determine their own development without being perpetually stigmatized because of a specific action that happened in the past,” she explained. “And this has actually been in discussion really since the early 2000s in Europe as well as Argentina and other parts of the world.”

“And for working people, what that means is that some event that has happened to you or that you did in the past, and that was not of national significance, should not haunt you for the rest of your life. This concept is really an attempt to balance the detail and information preservation features of the internet alongside the reality that people change, develop and grow throughout their lives, Gorky said. “I certainly am not the same person now that I was when I was 21. And I'm sure this is something most everyone understands really on an intuitive level.” 

“But now, I will also say that for the rich, they live in a completely different reality. They choose what information is shown about them and what information is removed from the search results. So, this law and this reform is really about giving working people, and not the rich, a way to have some say over the results that come up when people search our name. With the internet, the information has the potential to last forever, and this really brings up an important question: what information is being preserved, and who benefits from that information?” Gorky explained.

According to Kiriakou, there are companies like Reputation Defender that ensure negative information about people on the internet is pushed “out of sight.” The catch? It costs those people a lot of money. 

“Under the ‘right to be forgotten’ law, essentially an EU citizen could submit a request to have that information removed from search results altogether, and having that removed [does] not depend on whether or not you had perhaps $20,000 to spare and spend on changing search results. This brings up the fact that information is scrubbed from the internet every single day, and as we talked about earlier, the rich really do live in a different reality. Not only do they do this through companies that they hire, but the rich also do this by using laws that were written for them. And they do this by being on the boards of these tech companies. Or like [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos, they own media outlets outright, like the Washington Post,” Gorky explained.

“And then there's also the case of just outright censorship by Google and other tech companies, which is another way of removing information that is really hidden from this discussion. The ‘right to be forgotten’ is an attempt to regulate these monstrous corporations that have this essential monopoly on the information that we see, and this goes back to really that there's a difference between certain kinds of information online. There are details and information that actually can hurt regular working people. In much of the rest of the world, society actually takes a different view toward so-called criminals. After you serve a sentence, that stigma falls away and you’re reentered back to society, because it's generally acknowledged that people change, mature and grow,” she continued.

However, that being said, Gorky noted that there is information people in a society have a right to know that is already being “scrubbed.”

“There is information that has societal importance. For those of us in the struggle for social justice, information preservation is key. We need to know, for example, whether or not a candidate promoted white supremacist policies like segregation, whether or not these details about oil spills [are true] and their impact that lasts for [thousands of years] and what happens or doesn’t happen to the companies that are responsible,” she said.

“We also need to know how many innocent people are being killed, maimed or terrorized by US drone attacks every single day. These are details and information that benefit the vast majority of people around the world, and we need to know, and this is the information that is being scrubbed,” Gorky noted, adding that the US government has long suppressed information about its actions.

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