Right to Be Forgotten

While many of us wish to be remembered: our birthdays, as the first to break the 10-minute staying underwater without breathing limit or first Asian/human/creature to {insert extraordinary act here} there are cases when we’d rather not be remembered at all. Embarrassing moment at graduation, prom or first presentation in front of a big crowd.

Because our lives become more and more ubiquitous online — from the moment our kids were born, their photos are already proudly flashed into Instagram to creating a memorial Facebook page for someone having ‘gone to soon’ — our personal lives are implicitly chronicled online. No wonder when Facebook’s “Lookback” video in celebration of its 10th year anniversary, many of us were amazed at the variety of photos we shared and gathered plenty of attention.

Indeed this is a golden age for stalkers, despite the privacy clampdown implemented because information is shared at a faster pace than it is being safeguarded through privacy settings.

Then there is this ‘Right to be Forgotten’ concept.

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The idea is based on individual rights and claims to have certain information and past events to be deleted so that third-parties (yes, you potential stalkers) will have no way to trace them. This is crucial for search engines and information-spewing channels since once personal details are shared online deliberately or not, the person in question no longer has the exclusive control of what to do with such shared information. One example is the spread of scandal videos and photos where parties involved are helpless in putting off the spread of controversial media.

Since laws protecting individual privacy and right to isolation is so outdated to the advancing technology that enforcers are often clueless on how to contain such breaches. When someone uploads photos of a celebrity without his or her permission, search engines become more likely targets of lawsuits instead of those who uploaded them (whose identities may be vague anyway).

I received one of Google’s notifications informing me that one page out of a Hong Kong blog website will no longer be displayed on Google results on certain European queries. The article mentioned of one individual and will therefore be muted so searches of this person’s name will no longer include my blog post made in 2011.

In a way the ‘right to be forgotten’ concept is scaling back the scope and power of search engines. Although critics may say this is one way of restricting the freedom of expression, there’s a need to do a balancing act.