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KNOW WHAT IS – RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

KNOW WHAT IS – RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

Written By – Shruti Bharti

With the tremendous proliferation of the internet, legislators across the globe have to confront the threat to privacy arising out of it. A subset of the right to privacy known as “the right to be forgotten” has lately been raised in a slew of high court decisions.

What is the Right to be Forgotten (RTBF)?

Strictly speaking, the Right to be Forgotten is the right to deletion of publicly available private information from search engines, databases, websites, or any other public platform. A person’s past may be wiped from his mind, but a simple search on public platforms brings back recollections of painful previous episodes that may undermine a person’s psyche, professional prospects, or general reputation in the eyes of upcoming generations.

What does the affidavit by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) state?

Claiming this right, as many as eight petitions seeking erasure of personal information from the Internet have been filed in Delhi High Court. In response to a petition filed by two businessmen, who were charged in a criminal case but were subsequently acquitted, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued an affidavit stating that India is developing the worldwide notion of the right to be forgotten. Also adding that,” The right to privacy is a fundamental right and it includes the right to be forgotten.”

Is there any statutory backing for the same?

As stated above, the court has recognized the right to be forgotten as an intrinsic part of the right to privacy, which has been declared a fundamental right under Article 21 of the right to life and personal liberty. However, there is currently no law in India that recognizes the same.

The centre’s affidavit mentions that the Personal Data Protection Bill, tabled in 2019, contains the doctrine of the Right to be forgotten in Clause 20, Chapter V of its draft. It states that the “data principal (the person to whom the data is related) shall have the right to restrict or prevent the continuing disclosure of his personal data by a data fiduciary.”

Also, the Information Technology Rules, 2021 mentions the guidelines providing the intermediaries to appoint a Grievance Officer who is entrusted with the task of removing unlawful, non-consensual images and information from its platform on the data principal’s request.

Where else is RTBF a recognized right?

RTBF gained currency after the 2014 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in the Google Spain case, which held that personal information although lawfully published may be removed if found to be inaccurate, irrelevant, or excessive concerning the purpose for which it is processed. The European Union provides the statutory backing for the principle of the right to be forgotten for its citizens under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed in 2018.

While efforts for statutory support of this right in India are underway, the necessity to strike a balance between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s right to information must be borne in mind.

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