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Should There be a ‘Right to be Forgotten’ on the Web?

Posted Aug 10, 2011 3:00 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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A closely watched court case in Spain involving 90 individuals who want Google to stop indexing their names is spurring debate about whether information on the Web should have a life cycle.

Among the 90 who've managed to win the support of the Spanish government is a domestic violence victim who discovered that her address could easily be found on Google, the New York Times reports. Another complains that her arrest in college days shouldn't be following her into middle age as it has.

The Times notes that while this issue about a "right to be forgotten" might not get a warm reception in the United States, where Google is based, it's gaining traction in Europe. Indeed, the European Union is expected to weigh in with regulations this fall.

“I cannot accept that individuals have no say over their data once it has been launched into cyberspace,” Viviane Reding, the European Union’s justice commissioner, is quoted saying. She simply disagrees with the argument that more control is impossible.

In the U.S., however, courts have shifted privacy in the other direction, with courts consistently finding that the right to publish the truth about someone's past supersedes an individual's right to privacy.

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