Thank you for all your questions, to learn more about the right to be forgotten, check out my book, Ctrl+Z: The Right to Be Forgotten available now!

My short bio: Meg Leta Jones - professor in Georgetown's Communication, Culture, & Technology program. The book I wrote on the right to be forgotten is called Ctrl+Z. It tackles the social, technical, and legal issues presented by "permanent" personal records in a digital world.

My Proof:

Comments: 65 • Responses: 16  • Date: 

sock20146 karma

Techdirt has often written about the "right to be forgotten"

Have you read the posts, and if so, do you agree or disagree with his major points?

MegLeta2 karma

Techdirt HATES the right to be forgotten. I think most of the American tech culture does – it makes sense. “Information wants to be free!” is pretty catchy and they’re right to be skeptical of the European system. That being said, I don’t find the right to be forgotten absurd. I understand wanting ephemerality to be part of the digital age and wanting policies to be in place to relieve suffering for those that society deems deserving.

The global part is much more complicated. Whether a user's rights should be respected across the global internet is the question of the decade! Connected digital technologies allows us to actually see if national users are in fact using .com domains to work around the right or if anyone in the US or outside the country at issue has ever searched the user.

losferwords6 karma

How would you go about getting the governments and corporations of the world to agree to this?

MegLeta4 karma

Certainly different citizens represented by different governments will have different versions of rights to be forgotten – but the idea is quite popular, even here in the US. Companies hate it, of course, because it’s more work for them and seemingly reduces the validity of the information they provide. The most successful approach appears to be to establish it as a “right” based on public support (and any number of justifications like security, dignity, privacy, etc) then fine companies for non-compliance. It’s not exactly cooperative, but it depends on the company. Lots of companies also want to be perceived as giving the public what it wants and certainly want to be perceived as respectful of civil rights. Google challenged the right to be forgotten in Spain, but after it lost at the Court of Justice of the EU, Microsoft voluntary put up a similar an online takedown form for EU users to submit requests to have URLs removed from Bing search results.

L1B3L5 karma

A few days ago Google was fined by $112,000 by French privacy regulators for failing to take down a link from its global domain, I find it disturbing that a French court is imposing censorship extraterritorially, regardless of its merits.

Do you think countries should be able to restrict access to information outside their borders? And what role, if any, do you think the American government should play in assisting Google?

MegLeta4 karma

Yes, France has fined Google for not complying properly with takedown requests. Google started using geolocation to edit results - previously it was editing by country domain. Generally, I am in favor of each country setting their own privacy laws and respecting those of others. I would prefer that countries only restrict access beyond there borders when there is a proven need to do so (evidence of mass work around) - but I have never been able to come up with such a proven need. If there is mass work around (meaning VPNs are being used to mask IP address to skirt the geolocation filter), there is extreme public interest and probably something I wouldn't support forgetting.

What should the US government do to assist Google is a great question. Considering the US government has already made some Europeans angry recently (namely the Snowden-NSA revelations), they're probably not eager to 1) cause more animosity with European data protection agencies or 2) show even more collaboration with US tech companies.

DaenerysTargaryen693 karma

Did you, or do you have anything you wish the internet to forget?

MegLeta3 karma

There are a few pictures where I look like I've swallowed a bug or been frozen for a couple decades that I could do without, but otherwise I currently sit unscathed. I consider myself lucky!

drrocket87752 karma

I'm an aspiring media ethicist, mostly journalism, and it always seems like when we talk about rights and oughts in different forms of media that it's mostly media studies people having the conversation, and the philosophy of it is secondary, or maybe even tertiary. Obviously you have a JD so you're versed in legal philosophy, but when it comes to considering people as moral agents do you think media studies for the most part is good at considering ethical dimensions outside of legality?

MegLeta2 karma

WOW that's a big question. Based on my experience wading into the shallow end of media studies, the field seems to utilize ideas of agency from STS and ideas of moral agency from political philosophy, mostly liberal political philosophy, which is shared by but utilized differently in a legal context.

drrocket87751 karma

Yeah, that makes sense. I can understand how media studies likes to deal with something that has a tie to legality because sometimes that's the only way it can get legitimized outside of the field, but there're times where I'l read something and think to myself something like "this guy is operating off a behaviorist theory of mind; no one believes that, why'd he doing it?" or like "he makes it sound like the concept of justified true belief is just knowledge full stop, no argumentation or objections or anything".

I mean, yeah, everyone can't be Baudrillard, but it'd be nice to see media studies people take a bit more risk in terms of potentially sacrificing some of the commercial viability of their work to get a more multi/inter disciplinary look at what they're talking about, ya get me?

MegLeta2 karma

I don't know that they consider themselves media ethicists but Helen Nissenbaum and Luciano Floridi are philosophers that have taken some interesting risks - and remained commercially successful!

sanderssam2 karma

Do you think it's possible for social norms to adjust to a point where the right to be forgotten is less significant? Like, my parents wouldn't hire someone who had drinking pictures on Facebook, but I would, etc. Obviously there would still be some situations where you would want the right... but in many cases progression of social norms could mitigate that?

MegLeta3 karma

The next generation will always shock the last. Nancy Jo Sales's new book, American Girls, describes how these older high schoolers are mortified by what freshmen are doing. Somehow time is collapsing again. Presumably we, no matter the generation, will consider some behaviors to be negative behavior. Negative behavior is hard to jostle lose, according to cognitive science, no matter how progressive or open-minded we want to be. So I think there will always be some desire for a right to be forgotten.

ciaraoconnor2 karma

How do you see the world of Social Media impacting the HR process (exclusionary measures) in the coming years?

MegLeta1 karma

I'm not sure I understand the question - do you mean using social media to decide whether to hire someone or not?

ciaraoconnor1 karma

Yes, using social media to decide whether to hire someone or not.

MegLeta2 karma

There are a few states that actually have laws against this. I support these anti-social media HR policies, namely because they allow easy workarounds for discriminatory hiring practices. For instance, people post pictures with their kids on Facebook all the time - HR can't ask if you have kids but can see you have kids.

EL--Tigre1 karma

Hi Meg. Do you think the right to be forgotten should be adopted elsewhere, for example in Canada? Do you think the current system in Europe is appropriate? Or could it be improved?

I have a few others questions too but I don't want to take away from others' opportunity to have their questions answered.

MegLeta1 karma

Canada is a very nice place with its own culture of forgiveness or second chances or reinvention - as well as its own information privacy law regime. It has also been much harder on Google lately in terms of intermediary liability. I would be surprised if Canada does not embrace some form of a right to be forgotten moving forward, but I've seen little explicit treatment of the rtbf. I'm also far from an expert on Canadian privacy law - apologies neighbor!

EL--Tigre1 karma

Haha don't be sorry. I'm not actually Canadian, I'm an Irish law student studying on exchange there.

About Europe though - do you think the current mechanism is appropriate? What are your thoughts on the argument that Google are being afforded quasi-governmental authority in deciding public issues, except without the checks and balances that tend to come with this power.

MegLeta3 karma

I really, really dislike the model. I've written about it here: The right to be forgotten is a very important conversation about the future of a global internet and the preservation of cultural artifacts and dignity of individuals. I do not support that being handed off to a private company - I want decisions to be made by those that will publish them and policies that are reviewable by the public to develop and take shape.

BoneLover42751 karma

Has anyone implemented (or even considered) a sort of sectoral version of RtbF? (e.g., a right to have social media choices forgotten, but no right to have loan defaults forgotten)

MegLeta2 karma

I suppose you could say Americans kind of have a sectoral right to be forgotten. California passed a law a couple years ago that allows kids (under 18) to remove things they themselves posted to platforms that have a user sign in (does not apply to things other people post about the kid or data collected and held by the company privately). That seems like a social media-like right. There is also the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which doesn't allow for information to be used after a certain number of years, and criminal erasure statutes that allow records to be wiped clean if a number of procedural hurdles are covered. You could definitely expand these ideas to create a more American right to be forgotten proposal.

Volebamus1 karma

Do you have any opinions in regards to individuals who pursue their "right to be forgotten" while having the media's spotlight? Specifically, how they invoke an unintended Streisand effect by attracting attention to the very thing they are pushing to be forgotten?

To follow up, do you think if it's ever worth it for some individuals to push for this right despite having (likely negative) media attention, instead of waiting to see if their records are lost in the sea of information?

MegLeta2 karma

That's an important point. The Streisand effect is certainly a real concern - and one of the reasons that the EU pushed for the right to be forgotten to be enforced between the user and Google. This way no high profile controversy, no complaint filed, no one has to know (that's of course part of the problem). For most non-famous people there isn't much of a Streisand effect, unless your case is the first case of its kind (e.g., Costeja González or Lorraine Martin). If you're already famous (e.g. Hulk Hogan) - you might as well take the money because that content isn't going anywhere.

In terms of waiting around to see if it blows over, I think it depends on who and where you are. If you're American, the best thing you can do is hire a reputation firm to try to get search results pushed down (I am not in favor of this in terms of how to treat an important information source btw). If you're European, you can try to get the URL from coming up when people search your name.

The problem with both these aspects of information policy is that they don't matter if someone searches you directly.

that_is_so_Raven1 karma

What are your thoughts on (1) dank memes and (2) what's your favorite thing about Breaking Bad?

MegLeta2 karma

As someone that engages in the occasional historical work, dank memes should be memorialized. Favorite thing about Breaking Bad is that Stassi Schoder knows how to dispose of Ariana's body in case Kristen wants to know. #vanderpump

strummist1 karma

Should this process be automated, so the process doesn't selectively favour richer and more technical people?

MegLeta2 karma

The process set up after the Google v. AEPD decision - the one that resulted in all the missing links - is just a form that an EU user can fill out. It doesn't cost anything - in fact, if you're really, really rich, Google (and national AEPDs) might flag you as a public person and give your case more scrutiny.

cheeezzburgers1 karma

The right to be forgotten is a terrible idea. The people who have the resources to actually follow up on this are the ones who most have things in their past to hide.

What are you views about that?

MegLeta5 karma

We actually don't have a lot of data on who is trying to be forgotten and for what. Rich people can buy privacy (for the most part) - that's always been true. But those that have been wrongly arrested or the victim of revenge porn or otherwise gained attention of a platform that will last longer than a few months don't necessarily have a lot of resources and worth considering. Not to mention that it's not just content the right to be forgotten reaches - it's also data trails, which we all have.