'The right to be forgotten' explained

The recent ‘The right to be forgotten’ ruling has been causing ripples across the internet world, and has caused a stir among prominent freedom societies. The controversial parsing of such a widely discussed subject has resulted in provoking fierce debate across both the digital and political landscapes.

Google has decided to comply with the widely discussed rule, and has implemented key changes to its search algorithm to accommodate it. The company has come under huge criticism from both sides of the argument, due to the flaws in its initial algorithm alterations, and for complying altogether.

But what is ‘the right to be forgotten’? And what does it mean for the internet?


Forget History

As stated by Rooney Mara’s character Erica Albright in 2010’s ‘The Social network: “The internet is written in ink, not pencil”. This is a particularly poignant part of ‘the right to be forgotten’ debate. Naturally, the internet doesn’t forget the past; in fact it works tirelessly to document it.

Whilst the internet acts as a fantastically enormous archive of information, many argue that it can be personally damaging. For example, a businessman’s reputation moving forward could be seriously marred by past troubles documented by the internet; troubles of which are no longer relevant today, but encourage distrust within a potential future client base.

Before the internet, it would be less likely that this information would be so readily available.

Free speech activists have been countering this argument by claiming that people have a right to know about this information.

Journalist Work Left Untouched

The initial ruling of ‘the right to be forgotten’ stated that journalist work must be protected by Google, which has since come under fire for removing a BBC new blog from its search results – an issue which the company have since rectified.

Even during the rise of social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, journalism remains the most effective free speech platform in the modern age – confirmed by ‘the right to be forgotten’ ruling. It puts the work of journalists on a pedestal in order to protect centuries old journalism traditions.

Preventing Privacy Erosion

Experts across the US have suggested that, due to technological advances (namely the internet), the Western world has seen much of its privacy rights and laws have eroded over time, and simply do not exist anymore.

A prime example of this is criminal records.

Traditionally, if you are caught and sentenced for stealing a bike from a neighbour’s garden, you will be given a criminal record. A record of which will expire over 5 years or so.

However, if Google is still indexing results for social media posts by friends discussing your record after its expiration, your life could seriously be affected. In the jobs world, potential employers could run a background check on you and have easy access to information such as this, and refuse to give you a job. This compromises privacy laws that have existed for over 100 years.


Whilst Google’s implementation of ‘the right to be forgotten’ is still in its infancy, it is easy to foresee that this subject will be widely debated for as long as it exists. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the developments of this ruling, and will be posting our opinions where necessary!