The Right to Be Forgotten

On January 25 the  European Commission announced its proposed reforms to the EU’s 1995 data protection rules that will strengthen online privacy rights.

According to the factsheet How Does The Data Protection Reform Strengthen Citizens’ Data?  :

In the 17 years since the current data protection rules were adopted, new ways of communicating such as online social networks have profoundly changed the way people share personal information, while cloud computing means that more data is stored on remote servers instead of personal computers. 250 million people now use the internet daily in Europe. In this fast-changing environment, individuals must retain effective control over their personal data. This is a fundamental right for everyone in the EU and must be safeguarded [emphasis added].

Key changes, per the factsheet, include:

  • A ‘right to be forgotten’ will help you manage data protection risks online. When you no longer want your data to be processed and there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it, the data will be deleted. The rules are about empowering individuals, not about erasing past events or restricting the freedom of the press.
  • Easier access to your own data.
  • A right to transfer personal data normal from one service provider to another.
  • When your consent is required, you must be asked to give it explicitly.
  • More transparency about how your data is handled, with easy-to-understand information, especially for children.
  • Businesses and organisations will need to inform you about data breaches that could adversely affect you without undue delay. They will also have to notify the relevant data protection authority.
  • Improved administrative and judicial remedies in cases of violation of data protection rights.
  • Increased responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data – through data protection risk assessments, data protection officers, and the principles of ‘privacy by design’ and ‘privacy by default’.

For a link to all the relevant documents, go here.

For different opinions on this topic, read American law professor Jeffrey Rosen’s piece critical of the proposed changes, The Right to Be Forgotten and The Telegraph Digital Media Editor Emma Barnett’s piece supportive of the proposal, We must fight for the right to be forgotten online. [Update: For additional analysis, read NPR’s Is The Right to Be Forgotten ‘The Biggest Threat To Free Speech On The Internet’? ]