What Is the “Right to Be Forgotten”?

Understanding the “Right to Be Forgotten”

The “Right to Be Forgotten” is a concept that allows individuals to request the removal of personal information from the internet. This right is designed to give people more control over their online presence and protect their privacy. It was first established by the European Court of Justice in 2014, following a landmark case involving a Spanish citizen who requested the removal of old, irrelevant news articles from Google’s search results.

Legal Background

The Landmark Case

In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of Mario Costeja González, a Spanish man who wanted Google to remove links to an article about his past financial troubles. The court decided that individuals have the right to request the removal of outdated or irrelevant personal information from search engines, leading to the establishment of the “Right to Be Forgotten.”

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The “Right to Be Forgotten” is enshrined in the GDPR, which came into effect in 2018. Article 17 of the GDPR outlines the conditions under which individuals can request the deletion of personal data. This regulation applies to all EU member states and has influenced privacy laws worldwide.

How It Works

Requesting Removal

To exercise the “Right to Be Forgotten,” individuals must submit a request to the search engine or website hosting the information. This request should include the specific URLs and reasons for removal. Google, for instance, has a form where users can request the removal of personal information from search results.

Criteria for Removal

Search engines evaluate requests based on several criteria. They consider whether the information is outdated, irrelevant, or no longer in the public interest. They also balance the individual’s right to privacy against the public’s right to access information. If the request meets the criteria, the search engine will remove the links from its search results.

Challenges and Controversies

Balancing Privacy and Free Speech

One of the main challenges of the “Right to Be Forgotten” is balancing the right to privacy with the right to free speech and access to information. Critics argue that this right can be used to censor legitimate information and rewrite history. Supporters, however, believe it is essential for protecting individuals from having their past permanently accessible online.

Global Implementation

While the “Right to Be Forgotten” is a legal requirement in the EU, its implementation varies globally. Some countries have adopted similar laws, while others have resisted, citing concerns about freedom of expression. This disparity can create challenges for individuals seeking to remove personal information from global search engines.

Impact on Individuals

Privacy Protection

The “Right to Be Forgotten” provides significant privacy protection for individuals. It allows them to remove outdated or irrelevant information that could harm their reputation or personal life. For instance, removing links to old news articles about minor legal troubles can help individuals move on from their past.

Professional Benefits

For professionals, the “Right to Be Forgotten” can be crucial for career advancement. Negative information, even if outdated, can affect job prospects. By removing such information, individuals can present a cleaner online presence to potential employers.

Emotional Well-Being

Being able to control personal information online also contributes to emotional well-being. Individuals feel more secure knowing that embarrassing or harmful information about them is not easily accessible. This control over their online presence can reduce anxiety and stress.

How to Exercise the Right

Steps to Remove Information

  1. Identify the Information: Determine which specific information or URLs you want to be removed.
  2. Submit a Request: Contact the search engine or website with your request. For instance, to learn how to remove information from Google, you can use their removal request form.
  3. Provide Justification: Explain why the information should be removed, citing reasons such as it being outdated, irrelevant, or not in the public interest.
  4. Follow Up: Monitor the status of your request and follow up if necessary. Be prepared to provide additional information if required.

Appeals and Further Actions

If your request is denied, you can appeal the decision. In the EU, you can contact your national data protection authority for assistance. Legal action may also be an option if you believe your rights are being violated.

Recommendations for Protecting Your Online Presence

Regular Monitoring

Regularly monitor your online presence to stay aware of what information is available about you. Set up Google Alerts for your name to receive notifications when new content is published.

Manage Privacy Settings

Take control of your privacy settings on social media and other online platforms. Limit the amount of personal information you share publicly and review your privacy settings regularly.

Create Positive Content

Creating positive content about yourself can help push down negative or irrelevant information in search results. Maintain an active presence on professional networks like LinkedIn and contribute to blogs or forums related to your field.


The “Right to Be Forgotten” is a powerful tool for individuals seeking to protect their privacy and manage their online reputation. By allowing people to remove outdated or irrelevant information, it helps balance the scales between privacy and free speech. Understanding how to exercise this right, including how to remove information from Google, is essential for maintaining a positive online presence. Regular monitoring, managing privacy settings, and creating positive content are proactive steps that can further enhance your online reputation.


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