Most of the reading I’ve done on the right to be forgotten has been U.S. tech media commenting on what crazy people the Europeans are, and how big a pain it’ll be for Google et al to deal with. I’ve also read a few pieces weighing freedom of expression against the damage that revenge porn sites do to people’s lives, and the legalized extortion conducted by mugshot sites. The headline today on this front is the EU’s application of the right to be forgotten not only to Google’s European properties, but to Google.com itself (when accessed from within Europe).
It’s fraught, but it’s also fascinating. And part of the reason it may clash so severely with sensibilities of libertarian-leaning North Americans is that it has its roots in French law’s droit à l’oubli—“a right that allows a convicted criminal who has served his time and been rehabilitated to object to the publication of the facts of his conviction and incarceration.”
This is a right I had no idea even existed: the idea that once you’ve done your time, your crime should be allowed to fade with people’s memories.
As someone pathologically unable to remember people’s names once I’ve met them, I seem to have this right hard-wired into my cerebral cortex. (I once spent two hours having a delightful dinner conversation with someone, only to re-introduce myself to them five minutes later in the foyer. In my defence, there may have been wine involved.) But my inner jury is still out as to whether I want that to be enforceable in a court of law.