Giovanni Sartor, ‘The right to be forgotten: balancing interests in the flux of time’

Abstract:
The passage of time may reverse the balance of interests involved in the processing of personal data. This provides a rationale for the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ – namely, data subjects’ right to exclude or limit the further processing of their personal information. This right has been endorsed in a number of judicial decisions in various EU Member States and has been affirmed in the recent Google-Spain decision by the European Court of Justice. To analyse the rationale of the right to be forgotten, I consider the evolving balance between legally relevant advantages and disadvantages resulting from the processing of personal data. For modelling this evolving balance, I propose a method based on the identification of trends over time and on their graphical representation. On the basis of this analysis, I consider how remedies and sanctions meant to implement the right to be forgotten may affect expectation and motivations of content and host providers, and consequently influence their behaviour. I argue that in the EU legal framework data subjects should be granted the right to request from competent authorities an injunction to have their personal data removed or their distribution limited when unrestricted online distribution is no longer justified by the balance of the interests at stake. However, sanctions against online distribution may induce premature forgetting. In particular, they may have a chilling effect on the distribution of information for journalistic purposes, negatively affecting freedom of expression and information.

Giovanni Sartor, The right to be forgotten: balancing interests in the flux of time. International Journal of Law and Information Technology (2015), doi: 10.1093/ijlit/eav017. First published online: November 25, 2015.

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