What we all fight for is to accomplish something in life in order to be remembered, with our achievements, creations, contributions to the society. At the same time we are fighting for staying in world’s collective memory, many of us are craving for a fresh start, for an opportunity for a second chance. The European union’s response is the proclaiming of the “right to be forgotten”. EU is motivating this newly established right with the need of protection of privacy. Jeffrey Rosen is saying “the right to be forgotten addresses an urgent problem in the digital age: it is very hard to escape your past on the Internet ” which shows exactly that people are projecting this issue just in the online world. I think that we should not limit our reflections on the subject by transposing this right only to the digital environment. Eric Posner says “ Once information is online, it can be forever instantly accessible through search engines. No need to dig through archives or court records for the record of Costeja’s debt”. This clearly shows that Internet is not the problem, it is not the net which is menacing the right of privacy , it just makes things faster. The information would still exist on paper based records just it would not be so easily accessible. I find it rather unfair to blame Internet for just speeding up the process of search.
At the beginning I was very controversial about whether I am more a supporter of the European thesis regarding the issue or the American one. On one hand a situation like one described at the beginning of “the Solace of oblivion” by Jeffrey Toobin is really something we all would like to prevent as horrible and unjust. On the other hand, the demand of the two German killers demanding anonymity and suing Wikipedia’s, I find equally unjust.
I think there are really different aspects of this “right to be forgotten” which are still not well defined and speared neither by the legislation nor by the jurisprudence. I very much like the three categories of this right as described by Peter Fleischer. When it is about a personal information disclosed by someone, this person should be the one able to take it out of the public space the same way he put it there – the first category. But once this information, fact or action, has affected and interacted with the existence of someone else, it has become part of his “world” already , as I believe is the case with the German killers. We should be mastering our own lives but not those of other people and if through our actions we had become in someway part of someone else’s existence it would be unfair to dispose of his life as well. There are many dark periods in human’s history but it does not mean we should erase the names of the villains out of it.
The desire for a clean start, where no one would know about crazy parties we had as teenagers or personal tragedies , is a tempting option for everyone but I consider it first of all, impossible for execution and second I do not agree it is right to be claimed. Even if we make filter in search engines and ban certain websites, we would just use the technological capacity of the net to restrict the information in it but what we are supposed to do with books and newspapers? Does it mean we should burn them all if we found in them such kind of violation of the right to be forgotten or it is not the same just because they could be found only in libraries but not in Google ?
Second, in our lives we make choices every day, some of them turn out to be more important than others but these choices are defining us and make us what we are and we should be ready to face the consequences of each and every one of them otherwise it is cheating. And to the question that some people ask, whether we are supposed to bear the consequences.
Here is some more information for those interested:
- Stanford Law review, “The Right to be forgotten” by Jeffrey Rosen
- “Eric Posner, “We All Have the Right to Be Forgotten,” Slate, May 14, 2014
- Gail Sullivan, “‘Right to be Forgotten’ gets real as Google wipes stories from search results,” July 3, 2014
- Jeffrey Toobin, “The Solace of Oblivion,” The New Yorker, September 29, 2014