Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Become a sustaining member and you could win a trip to Barbados!

Should The U.S. Adopt A "Right To Be Forgotten" Online?

Stathis Edel

Even the least tech-savvy among us has probably built up some kind of an online “past”, whether through photos on Facebook, or a mention in a newspaper article, or public documents- from arrests to divorce to debt.  On one hand, this 'permanent record' can be a great benefit for potential employers and others curious about us, providing a sense of our job history, personal life, and accomplishments all with one Google search. At the same time, though, mistakes, embarrassing photographs, or other indiscretions are also cataloged, seemingly forever. But now, a new law in the European Union aims to remove access to much of this material, if a person wants.  And while citizens over there are still sorting this out, some wonder if the U.S. would – or could – ever take similar measures.


  • a Boston Globe editorial about the right to be forgotten: "While it’s easy to sympathize with people who’d like to put a decade-old mistake or mishap behind them, the removal of links to information from legitimate public sources at some point becomes censorship. If nothing else, the European ruling provides a lesson on the pitfalls of having the results of an Internet search algorithm subjected to court scrutiny."
  • Nuala O'Connor's piece about the dangers of the right to be forgotten: "There may be good reasons that people’s pasts shouldn’t factor into their present, but there may also be good reason that we should know if someone running for office misused public funds or if someone seeking employment has a criminal record. Ultimately, we should be allowed to make the decision if, based on publicly available information, someone should be forgiven for past misdeeds."
  • John P. David looks atwho and what deserves to be forgotten: "And here's another question: What if Google's efforts in the E.U. turn out to be well received and uncontroversial? Might the worldwide search engine itself migrate the policies to the United States and the rest of the planet."
Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.