Are Americans About to Gain the ‘Right To Be Forgotten’?

The ‘right to be forgotten’ could be incredibly beneficial to people trying to maintain a good online reputation. While the concept has been common in EU law for the last decade, the right to be forgotten had been largely ignored in the USA. However, in March politicians in New York State brought forward a bill that could introduce the right to be forgotten to the USA.

New York Assembly Bill 5323 is a motion brought forward by David Weprin, while the simultaneous Senate Bill 4561 was proposed by Senator Tony Avella. The motions outline a citizen’s right to request certain personal information published about them to be removed from public circulation online.

There are fairly extensive clarifications surrounding what information can or can’t be forcibly removed. Basically, citizens can demand websites remove any information deemed to be “inaccurate”, “irrelevant”, or “inadequate”. If the website successfully argues the information is still relevant to public interest, then they won’t need to remove it.

This right to be forgotten could have a huge positive effect for people seeking to manage their online reputations. For example; a local newspaper article showing you winning a hotdog eating contest might make you look a little silly to potential employers, so, as it’s of no imperative interest to the general public, you could rightfully demand that the article be taken down. On a more serious note, individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes can also request old and inaccurate articles be removed.

For a country whose First Amendment pertains to freedom of speech and expression, it’s perhaps not surprising that the proposals have a number of detractors. Eugene Volokh, a writer for the Washington Post, has argued that the right to be forgotten is tantamount to government sponsored censorship, as it will be up to US politicians to decide what information is relevant or irrelevant to public interest.

Currently, the bill is still in its proposal phase and would only be applied to the New York State area. Considering that the top levels of US government are currently in the process of repealing a number of internet privacy laws, the wider implementation of right to be forgotten laws may not be likely.

Without laws enabling you to control what information is published about you online, the need for professional online reputation advice will become all the more imperative.