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The Right To Be 

Forgotten 
News about The Right To Be Forgotten,
including commentary and archival articles
published in The New York Times.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

By AARON SCHIELA

Overview

They say ignorance is bliss. In some cases it might just be. Although people have been known to
learn from their mistakes, or at least past unprecedented incidents to help in times of turmoil, history can
also destroy people. Now that we live in an age where everything is recorded, documented, and
remembered, it makes it harder to move forward, because we (along with the internet) have trouble letting
go of the past.

As Amy Webb describes, the ability that technology has to track, record, and remember our
searches, tweets, interests, etc. can seem impressive, but can also be invasive. “Soon, powerful
machine-learning algorithms and artificially intelligent systems will analyze our data to reach decisions
about and for us: whether we qualify for a bank loan, whether we're likely to commit a crime, whether we
deserve an organ transplant. And unlike us, machines aren't burdened with an emotional attachment to
privacy.” Technological history could possibly lead to a decline in job, loan, and other life changing
opportunities. The thought that a computer, or a company can easily gain access to who you are (and
could be) without ever meeting you is an odd way to go through life. The retainment ability of technology
is taking away privacy, personality, and humanity.

Privacy Invasion

This “data-mining” has been turned into a profitable way for companies to keep customers loyal.
Whether it’s by suggesting what to buy, what songs you may be interested in, or what T.V. shows you
may like; the data is gained through silent collection of personal interests. For years, however, companies
have avoided being viewed as “invasive” through “The Art of Invisibility,” as author and internet security
expert Kevin Mitnick puts it in his book. Blindly we agree to terms that we never truly understand just to
get to the next step of a program. As Mitnick, a convicted internet hacker, explains that we are not aware
of how much personal data is stored and available on the internet for public access.

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The recent “wire-tapping” claims made by President Trump against Barack Obama on March 4th
have brought into light actual issues and questions regarding the invasive and covert security intrusions
that can take place. The most relevant and damaging instance of the internet (regarding its easy access,
and its unforgiving memory) deals with the infamous Edward Snowden. Since the outbreak of
“Wiki-leaks” in 2013 the collection of data (as well as storage) has updated its policy, and blocked out
American names in their documented reports. However, that is just the thing, the unknown amount of
reports that each American has gained through the years. As mentioned in Shane Scott’s article, “​Trump’s
Wiretap Accusations Renew Debate About Privacy​,” in 2011 the National Security Agency over 250
million internet communications were collected and stored. In 2015 over 94,000 foreigners were under
the interest of research, however this search took place in many unaware Americans data, “…either
because they are communicating with a foreigner or are mentioned in a foreigner’s messages.” Under the
Section 702 program such invasion of privacy of civilians is entirely legal to the N.S.A, C.I.A, and F.B.I
as well, with the just cause to find “foreign intelligence.” New policies actually protect certain sections of
data for civilians, however, if necessary they can be easily overturned.

Multi-Media History

With communication available on almost any spectrum, it is possible for anyone to become
involved in a crime that they were not aware of. A judge in Brazil issued an entire shutdown of
Facebook’s messaging application known as WhatsApp in May of 2016. This was in order to search
messages and gain data in a case that involved information about drug exchanges. Before Social Media,
people were able to communicate however they wished without interruption, and were trusted based on
their word, and judged based off who they were. In today’s world however Facebook posts, Twitter
tweets, and Instagram posts can keep certain individuals from employment, or even enrollment in a school
system. The ability to go back years and years on these social media sites in search of one incriminating
connection is a dangerous way that internet history can again affect our everyday lives. The internet is
something that few comprehend the power of, it is something viewed as a right and a fun accessible
service. However, in reality it is an unforgiving crypt of history.

Business Dangers

The new introduction of Bitcoin (defined as, “a type of digital currency in which encryption
techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds,
operating independently of a central bank”) has proved to be a hot commodity with businesses nowadays.
Bitcoin permanently records transactions, which may help to control instances of fraud, but also leaves no
room for human error. Mistakes are not able to be forgotten as they are recorded in a blockchain (a
computerized ledger for bitcoin). The strict systems of computerized banking system is one in which,
“mischief and mistakes are immutable and fraudsters can defend their actions on spurious ideological
grounds. Even the smartest contracts can be susceptible to human error, and even the cleverest I.T.
architectures will be hit by events that need to be undone,” according to Richard Lumb (​Downside of
Bitcoin: A Ledger That Can’t Be Corrected​).

Global Progress

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China has attempted to adapt its systems and protect all within it based on the recent spike in
“e-government” and “e-business.” Many laws have been put into place to integrate technology into the
personal lives of civilians. There is however the trouble of deciding what information needs protecting.
There aren’t any new laws currently implemented but The Republic of China is currently trying to
determine what information should be heavily protected, how so, and how to keep it personally protected.
One of the possible solutions proposed is to have information, “collected, processed, deleted and used in
their business activities to satisfy their business objects,” per the article ​“A comprehensive concept map
for adequate protection and effective management of personal information in networked Chinese
services​.”

The Right to Be Forgotten

It is hard to forget, hard to be forgotten, but now through Google, in Europe it has been declared
that people can request to have information about them be redacted from companies searches. AN
example of this was when a Spanish lawyer requested that links to an article relating to his debt was to be
removed. Parliament has stood strong with its ideal to, “data protection first, not an afterthought.” On the
lines of thought, what does it mean to have the right to be forgotten? In short, it means that, “individuals
have the right to delete information about themselves that is not legally required to remain online,”
(Luckerson, ​Americans Will Never Have the Right to Be Forgotten​). In 2013 things were looking bright,
but in 2016, the censorship in Europe has become conflicting. Although European users may be able to
remove information about themselves from Google, across the globe the information will still be available
in other nations. Users in Europe can also go to google.com as opposed to google.fr or google.de. The
largest proponent against “The Right to Be Forgotten” are journalist who do not agree with the censoring
on the internet, a place of free speech. Geo-blocking cuts off certain people from other parts of the world.
Although privacy is an important issue, as Daphne Keller (​Europe's Web Privacy Rules: Bad for Google,
Bad for Everyone​) explains it, “shouldn’t be ignored in the internet age. But applying those national laws
to the Internet needs to be handled with more nuance and concern.”

When it comes to America however the privacy protections are less than that overseas. In 1890 an
article in the Harvard Law Review referred to “the right to privacy” and was very popular amongst the
country, however times have changed very much since then, and computers, technology, and new data has
changed the idea of when privacy interferes with safety. In fact, over 68% of Americans believe there are
not enough security measures online when it comes to personal privacy, and based on the importance that
the data supplies for surveillance, America may never reach the same “forgetting” levels as Europe. A
constitutional conflict lies within the First Amendment. The idea of “Freedom of Speech” would be taken
into jeopardy if certain information and writings could be censored by any who were offended by it. The
status of state laws in America also differ from the laws within Europe that can affect entire countries.
Thus the digital protection laws very from state to state and age to age. One of the largest stalls on
progress comes from the corruption of Congress itself. According to Time Magazine, Google spent $15.8
million more than Exxon Mobil in D.C. lobbying, effectively putting the breaks on the wheels.

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