Based on the comments we received during our presentation in the previous semester, we focused our research on finding case studies relevant to the Right to be Forgotten (RTBF), putting emphasis on cases that were actually taken to court and have sufficient documentation. We soon realised that such cases are very few in number, given that this is a relatively new issue and as such few cases have actually gone to court.
However, through our research we discovered that there exists a lot of debate regarding the issue at an international level. To that end, we tried to find official statements or publications by credible officials. We managed to come across a few interesting statements such as one from the founder of Wikipedia and an open letter from 80 academics . While those findings turned out to be limited, we did find a large amount of articles from credible news sources (eg. Huffington Post, The Guardian) discussing the RTBF. This drove us towards the decision to focus our analysis of the issue at an international level, as well as present the current state across different countries alongside the prevailing public opinions.
Something else we discovered was that there is a need to clearly define the RTBF, including the technical details, ie. the difference between deleting data on the internet and simply making the links unreachable by erasing them from search engine results. Additionally, it is important to specify under which circumstances an individual can invoke the RTBF. For instance, there was a case where a person erroneously used Google’s RTBF form and was unable to get the requested link erased . Therefore, it would be useful to address the new draft of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and it’s effect on the RTBF .
Regarding the international aspect, a very important development that just came up is a conflict between Google and the French Data Protection Regulator. Google has complied with the European RTBF requests and has removed all requested links, but only within their European domains (eg. google.fr, google.co.uk etc), thus leaving links intact across the rest of their domains (eg. google.com). However, the French Data Protection Regulator has now forced Google to apply the same ruling globally, which has ignited a heated discussion in the USA. Their main concern is that sources outside the US have the ability to interfere with data in American servers .
In conclusion, the next step in our methodology is to study the material we have acquired, while looking at it from the perspective of different countries. This includes the aforementioned case studies, official statements, and publications, as well as emphasis on the different sides of the debate presented in news outlets. We believe it will be both interesting to look into how different cultures deal with this issue, since it’s a matter of balance between privacy and freedom of speech, and valuable for humanities research to capture the mindset of the general populous.