The Right to Inform v. The Right to be Forgotten: A Transatlantic Clash
Georgetown University Law Center
May 8, 2009
LIABILITY IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM, Aurelia Colombi Ciacchi, Christine Godt, Peter Rott, Leslie Jane Smith, eds., Baden-Baden, F.R.G., 2009
Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 2
In recent time, privacy advocates in Europe have argued that internet users should have the right to control and possible erase the information they leave behind themselves on the web, calling for "a right to be forgotten". Under Swiss law, which for obvious reasons I will choose as an example of laws in other European countries, courts may not be confronted with this issue in the near future; however, in disputes involving the press and other media, they have repeatedly extended the right to be forgotten to persons who have been sentenced for criminal offenses. After a certain time has passed, these persons may have the right to preclude anyone from identifying them in relation to their criminal past. This right is part of what the Swiss refer to as the "rights of the personality," and could arguably include the right of internet users to keep their activity trails private. Dignity, honor and the right to the respect of one's private life and to keep certain things secret, as well as the right to the respect of one's family life and other aspects of privacy, are all part of these fundamental rights of the person.
My aim in this tribute is to present the right to be forgotten as it is recognized in Switzerland and give, by the same token, as example of the European approach to this question. I also want to describe the law as it is in the United States. My concluding remarks will hopefully offer an insight of what may in part explain the transatlantic clash on this question.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: privacy, "right to be forgotten", internet users
Date posted: May 10, 2009