In today's digital age of social media and instantaneous connectivity, it is obviously easier than ever for individuals to share personal information with a vast audience. Correspondingly, there is also an increased risk to individuals of reputational harm caused by the sharing of personal information or photographs. The question arises whether individuals should have a right to be "erased" or "forgotten" from digital systems.
On 13 May 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google could be prevented from displaying links to information which was "inadequate, irrelevant … or excessive" after taking into account the purpose for which the information was originally provided and the time which had elapsed since (Google v Gonzalez). The case involved a request from a Spanish citizen to be removed from Google's search index.
The "right to be forgotten" is presently a topical issue in the European Union. While the Google v Gonzalez decision was based on existing European Union law, a new General Data Protection Regulation has been proposed which would provide a more explicit "right of erasure". The proposed regulation is not yet in force, but has received the strong support of the European Parliament.
The Australian Law Reform Commission has recently proposed an additional Australian Privacy Principle introducing a "right to be deleted". While this would be more limited than the proposed new European regulation's "right to erasure", it does focus attention on the issue in Australia.
About the Presenter
Dr Gordon Hughes is a Partner at Ashurst Australia. He has written texts on technology law and data protection law, and has practised extensively in the area. He is a former President, and honorary life member, of the Victorian Society for Computers and the Law.