Should we have a right to be forgotten?

Should we have a right to be forgotten?
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When you appear in an embarrassing photo or video online, it’s there for all to see – potentially forever.

It can damage reputations and have implications on people’s careers, relationships and self-esteem.

But should we have a ‘right to be forgotten’?

A panel of Australian stakeholders today discussed the issue, in preparation for the global Internet Governance Forum, which takes place next week. And the Australian Law Reform Commission is seeking recommendations on the issue by mid-November.

The ‘right to be forgotten’ has already been incorporated into Californian law and the EU is currently considering enforcing a similar law. The law means individuals who are the subject of damaging online content have the power to have that content deleted.

The panel, at the Australian Internet Governance Forum in Melbourne, was chaired by Dr John Selby (pictured), from Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics.

Selby told B&T: “At the moment, the obligation is on the entity to decide when something is to be deleted from the internet. The ‘right to be forgotten’ would empower individuals to ask for content featuring them to be deleted.

“Historically it was expensive to remember and cheap to forget. In the past, to remember something you had to chisel it in stone or handwrite it. But technology has changed that – today it’s easier and cheaper to remember than it is to forget. This can have a big impact on people’s lives.”

Selby said the panel wants to get the conversation started in Australia.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we’re trying to start a dialogue in Australia about whether there should be a right to be forgotten and, if so, how it should be implemented,” he said.

The panel will make recommendations for Australia’s contribution to the global Internal Governance Forum, taking place in Bali next week. 

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