digibyte - do US adults really want Europe's right to be forgotten on their doorstep?

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan September 14, 2014
In order for a censorious edict like the right to be forgotten to have any real clout, it needs a global reach and most specifically a US one. Maybe it's in luck?

We've written a lot about the controversial 'right to be forgotten' that's been imposed on Europe by its highest court, the European Court of Justice, and seized upon by advocates of tougher data protection laws across the region.

One of the main flaws of this hideous piece of judicial folly is the sheer futility of its remit. It only covers Europe and European citizens and all that's needed to bypass it is to perform a web search via a US site i.e. anything that's been erased from google.co.uk  can still be seen on google.com.

In order for such a censorious edict to have any real clout, it would have to have a global reach and most specifically a US one. I noted earlier in the year that during a conversation with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff I had been a bit surprised at his stance that everyone, including US citizens, should indeed have the right to be forgotten.

It seems he's not along. A study of the attitudes of US adults  by advisory firm Software Advice found that:

  • Sixty-one percent of Americans believe some version of the right to be forgotten is necessary.
  • Thirty-nine percent want a European-style blanket right to be forgotten, without restrictions.
  • A further 21 percent wanted the right only with qualifications:
  • 15 percent thought it should only be extended to minors
  • 6 percent believed everybody except public figures should be able to demand the right to be forgotten.
  • only 18 percent were opposed on the basis of the public’s right to know
  • 21 percent were concerned about the thorny issues surrounding the definition of what constitutes “relevancy.”

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 13.03.22
Source: Software Advice

My take

Those are pretty big conclusions to come to from is a pretty small polling base of only 500 people, but hey, in the UK at the moment you can cause a run on the pound sterling just based on a Scottish independence voting intentions poll of 700 people!

The more interesting numbers in the survey come when people were asked how they felt about 'embarrassing' information hanging around the internet ad infinitum.

When you cobble together various categories, you get a total of 47  percent of respondents who articulated concern about this, compared to 61 percent who demand the right to be forgotten, presumably simply as a privacy point of principle or just as a knee-jerk reaction to perceived Big Brother-dom.

It's an interesting glimpse into the views of some US citizens on this matter. But it does nothing to change my mind: the right to be forgotten is a blunt instrument both for rewriting inconvenient history and for driving through draconian data protection (and protectionist) policies by those with a hellbent political agenda.



A grey colored placeholder image