Should the removal of personal info posted online be a human right?

69% of online Americans agree that the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ should be a human right, 29% think it allows for censorship. Only 16% think the ‘right to be forgotten’ is not practical.

The ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ ruling in May 2014 allows EU citizens to request that search engines remove links to personal information where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.

Since the ruling, many have debated whether individuals should have the ability to edit their online identities to protect their personal privacy, specifically if the information is believed to be irrelevant. The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ has to be balanced against other rights such as freedom of expression and the media leading to time-consuming case-by-case assessments.

The research findings are based on data from an online survey conducted by Ipsos, commissioned by TRUSTe, with 1,000 adults aged 18-75 questioned online in the US between November 28 and December 5 2014. According to the survey, 71% of online Americans support people living in the United Kingdom and wider European Union having the ‘Right to be Forgotten,’ and 77% believe it helps individuals enhance the protection of their personal data. However, awareness of the ruling in the U.S. is surprisingly low as only 26% of Americans were aware that people living in the United Kingdom and the European Union had this right.

Russia also recently signed a ‘right to be forgotten’ bill into law, and many are now anticipating where will be next and if the U.S. will follow suit. Many U.S. states are already heading in a similar direction as the controversial “erase button” law has been in effect in California since May 2015, with similar legislations in process in New Jersey and Illinois.

This law requires that websites allow people under the age of 18 to remove their own postings on that website, and clearly explain how to do so. This could signify the beginning of an important trend in moving towards the right to be forgotten and putting more users in control of their online identities.

Many Americans have given away their personal information to companies online, including their phone number, address, email address, birth date, etc. Of the Internet users surveyed, 37% said they wish they had not knowingly shared their telephone number with an organization or company online.

Among those who had knowingly shared personal information they wished they had not, more than half (52%) said they would request for their telephone number to be removed, 41% would request removal of their address and 20% said they would request to remove photos of themselves if there was an option to do so.

“Our research shows that Americans believe they should have the right to greater control of their online identities,” said Chris Babel, CEO, TRUSTe. “The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ ruling brings up an interesting debate between having the right to personal privacy and the right to access accurate and comprehensive information online. Perhaps most significantly, the law presents challenges for Internet publishers and search engines who have the difficult job of allocating resources to support the large number of incoming requests from EU citizens.”

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