“The right to be forgotten” is not a legitimate right, and actively promotes abuse at all levels of society

An excerpt from an email I’ve been writing:

As for “the right to be forgotten,” I strongly disagree that this is important.

First of all, no one has “the right” to be forgotten. The framing of this as a “right” is incredibly dangerous because it is by definition a way to describe other people’s memories as property that they do not actually own. I.e., when you say that someone has “the right to be forgotten,” what you are saying is that this person has ownership over other people’s memories, which sounds ridiculous right now but will actually be technologically enforceable in the near future. This “right” is thus already corrupt and extremely dystopic.

Second, even if I were to cede the ridiculous argument that this should in any way be considered a “right,” and thus bounded by the incredibly corrupt and unjust framework of State-backed Law, the fact remains that the act of “forgetting” only serves to support the abusive elements of society. The erasure of history is a defining element of oppressive practices on the macro-scale of history, but also on the micro-scale of interpersonal interaction. Men who beat their wives rely on the fact that their ex-wives do not warn their new brides that they are abusive assholes. Serial rapists rely on the fact that their victims will not have the benefit of communication with their former victims in order to perpetrate multiple assaults. The idea that we should give anyone the power to enforce a kind of “forgetting” on other people is such a terrible idea that the only reason it gains favor is either the shortsightedness or the intentional sociopathy of its proponents.

If I do something that’s embarrassing but not outright predatory, then the ethical societal reaction to this act should be compassion, not ridicule. Likewise, if I do something that is outright predatory, then it only serves my own predatory motives to be able to force other people to forget that I have done that thing. The fact that society’s reaction in the former case is not compassionate but rather abusive is a problem with society, not with the ability to keep historical records. Trying to solve society’s abusive tendencies with legally enforceable mechanisms that further protect and entrench abusive behavior is silly at best and counterproductive at worst.

19 replies on ““The right to be forgotten” is not a legitimate right, and actively promotes abuse at all levels of society”

  1. Yup, sounds more like a privilege to be forgotten because the same th’at’ll tell you to get over their past actions will throw your own at your face…

    If you’re outraged that someone can dig in your past the solution is simple : don’t screw up, ever. And always make stuff that are respectful.

  2. it occured to me when i first started learning about the internet,the the only ones that can truly manipulate and delete data are the ones who have access to the all-consuming superservers – as maymay points out,surveillance and that a self-nominated board of arbitrators are debating your privacy/digital existence is maybe an indication of how you are viewed by authority in this world.
    I dunno … im kinda disappointed that ARPAnet came from America – a truly stiflingly litigious place … a nation that is debating gun laws due to the proliferation of weapons … when you have more chance of having class-action law suit placed against you,than being shot …ohhh priorities ;)

  3. the EU decision on Google was interesting … the Spanish guy wanted to sell some houses … but he felt he was being unfairly ‘outed’ because of his conviction for fraud/bankruptcy seven years previously … i guess .. in a way .. its a bit like in how a trial is meant to operate .. and whether you feel a persons previous behaviour in a given case should be taken into account – or you stay within the realms of the accusation levelled

  4. I have to agree to your line of argument. If something like this became a right, you’d never see the end of it. Reminds me of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. There of course it was the other way around but you could perceive the abuse that originated from altering someon’s memories.

    Especially in the context ot abusive relationships, there should be the right to warn others. Even then some women would still consider having relationships with abusive men which is bad enough and don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging them. But a law like this would protect no one’s privacy, on the contrary

    Next step probably would be a MINORITY REPORT-like preventive task force that stops potential crimes and only creates other dimensions of problems.

  5. We need to recognize that society is currently de-facto abusive, runs on abuse, relies on abusive dynamics to sustain itself. All of the justifications anyone ever gives for "the right to be forgotten" could be better addressed by tackling the bigotry that "the right to be forgotten" is intended to address, but doesn’t actually address. For instance, if you feel you are being mistreated because of a prior conviction, an actual solution to that problem for society would be to advocate for the abolition of prisons and the so-called criminal justice system (because it is not a just system, it is a legal system), or to advocate for more compassionate treatment of felons, not to enact new laws that forbid the recollection of your prior (mis-)deeds. The former action actually helps people writ large. The latter action is a short-sighted, narcissistic, self-serving power play that ultimately entrenches more bigotry and stigma into societal infrastructure.

  6. "forgive and forget," people say, believing this forgiveness will let them off the hook. Remember, when we forget, we’re doomed to repeat. Society’s abusive ways are no stranger to me. "Compassion," is not in their vocabulary. This "forgetting," only serves the abuser.

  7. yes! people need to know that just because they’re forgiven, doesn’t mean they can do it again. Not forgetting is a way to put them on notice. There’s no excuse for abuse.

  8. Except the so called "Right to be forgotten" is nothing of the sort. It is actually more acurrately called "Right to be removed from private data processors index". The actual legal decision is at http://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-131/12

    If you read it you will see that the website which held the article in question was NOT order to remove it. it was only Google who were required to remove it from searches on the applicants name. They were not required to remove it from other searches.

    Considering that Google already readily remove search results from showing websites alleged to infringe US copyright, the feigned outrage against his decision is insupportable.

  9. Why is it insupportable? Obviously, removing links to copyrighted material is equally bad, since copyright is nothing more than a mechanism by which a certain kind of abuse is perpetrated (ownership over other people’s ideas rather than other people’s memories, equally if not more problematic) and so perfectly exemplifies my point that this coercive "forgetting" is a protectorate of sociopathic societal tendencies.

  10. its a subject that has wide consequences for sure – i think HighlandLawyer is keeping the issue within the bounds of legal dogma … where as maymay has a more specific social perspective … both have problems … law is intentionally vague and corrupt … and any societal conflicts that arise from these issues,demands a degree of honesty,that the sideline witch-hunters couldnt stomach.

  11. Anyone who believes social problems can be resolved by legal means (which are just appeal to authority backed by State violence) does not understand social problems.

  12. The right to be forgotten is usually using the term "move on", but that term is classified into two: let the issue be move on after a just closure, or as what you said, walking it away, trying to forget, thinking of it as if nothing happened, or trying to be ignorant on such matters.

  13. What about the right to opt out of information sharing? Why do phone companies charge NOT to be listed? It couldn’t cost then not to publish that info. Companies such as banks give little or no opt-out rights. Imagine if everyone chooses to opt-out…. hmmm.

  14. That’s still not a "right." You’re confusing an business’s given antifeature with a legal right. Business is by definition exploitative, but no one has a "right" to not be exploited, and even if you theoretically did, asking the corrupt legal system to grant you that right is naive at best, like asking a dingo to be a babysitter.

  15. Right. So, as I said:

    Trying to solve society’s abusive tendencies with legally enforceable mechanisms that further protect and entrench abusive behavior is silly at best and counterproductive at worst.

    The problem that "the right to be forgotten" is trying to solve is the fact that there is a business model for surveillance and privacy violation. But rather than trying to tackle the issue of why it is economically profitable to exploit users, this "right" is just a silly legal argument that appeals to the very same system that created the problem in the first place. If it is adopted, it only strengthens the ability of abusive elements of society including corporations and powerful individuals (but notably not people with relatively little power) to act in abusive ways.

    It is a bad argument, relying on a bad analysis, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the system to which it is appealing.

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