It may seem unusual to want to be forgotten. Most of us would like to be recognized, to be applauded and known for something, leave a legacy when we pass, to be famous even perhaps. The notion of wanting to be forgotten seems foreign.
However, the right to be forgotten has become the focus as countries examine the privacy policies of their citizens.
The EU General Data Protection Plan (GDPR)
With the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), citizens are given more control over their personal information and the UK's new Data Protection Bill will enshrine the right to be forgotten into law.
What this means is that individuals have the freedom to live their lives without being stigmatized for their choices. As a human being it is your basic right to control what information is collected and stored about you, and for how long. Should you constantly be judged or stigmatized by actions in your past?
Google Loses Landmark Case
In a recent landmark court case between a businessman and Google, the judge decided in favour of the businessman’s right to have search results regarding a criminal conviction removed from his past. The claimant was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications and spent 6 months in prison. After Google refused to remove the damaging information, he took them to court.
In 2014, the European court of justice (ECJ) ruled that irrelevant and outdated data should be erased on request. Since then, Google has received requests to remove countless links from search results. Search engine firms can reject applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy.
The Right to Disconnect
Along with the “right to be forgotten” is the “right to disconnect”. This is only the beginning as the world recognizes the individual’s right to “disconnect.” The digital world has grown so rapidly, most of us are digitally connected in one way or another to our employers. In France, companies of a certain size will now need to negotiate how available their employees are after-hours. It is an attempt to define the boundary between work-life and home life. As more of us work remotely, this is a real concern.
In reality, total disconnection is almost impossible. Many companies as well as government departments offer their forms and information about their programs and policies online. Why waste time driving, parking and waiting to see someone in an office, when you can do it all online?
Often that time gets rerouted to more entertaining online connections, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or some attention-diverting app on your smartphone. Then you are not disconnected at all.
What it Means for Companies
You must make sure that your means of collecting data on an individual allows for an opt-in, and provides consent to be contacted. Implied opt-ins are not enough. There has to be a clearly-defined box to check for agreement to allow collections of data, and receiving of information. Also, anyone on your contacts list must have the right to have all their data deleted for free at any time. Companies also need to be aware of what data is collected and where and how it is stored.
What it Means for You
It means you have control over what personal data is collected on you and who has access to that data. Governments are beginning to recognize your needs as an individual, your privacy and enforce that protection with legislation.