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In 2014, a Spanish lawyer Mario Costeja Gonzalez filed a suit against the Google search engine to erase his information online. The Court of Justice of the European Union made the verdict in favor of Gonzalez and this ultimately became the trigger to increase people’s awareness regarding the right to be forgotten.
The right to be forgotten does not have an official and specific definition; however, the definition commonly used among people is the right to have personal information deleted or edited from databases including electronic and paper records. It originated from France’s le droit d’oubli, meaning the right to be forgotten, whose importance was first mentioned in “Delete (2011)” written by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger.
The first official appearance of the right to be forgotten was made in 2012 by the European Committee while confirming the amendment of the Data Protection Law in order to strengthen the right of subjects of information on the internet. Then it was first officially recognized by the public through the case of Mario Costeja in 2014, as it is mentioned above.
Increased awareness of
the right to be forgotten in Korea
Korea has also started to acknowledge the right to be forgotten due to the problems people experience in their everyday lives. One student who wanted to stay anonymous said, “I had a plastic surgery when I entered the university. I am very satisfied with how I look now, but sometimes my photos before the surgery come up among my colleagues and people I do not know very well. It is very shameful and I really want people to erase them, but it is hard to ask each and everyone who has those photos.”
Also, the number of people who suffered due to past faults seems to increase. Jeong Hoe-cheol (Junior, Industrial & Systems Engineering) mentioned about his acquaintance who was a victim of his past incident. “On the internet there is a post named ‘One soldier’s spirit’ and that soldier was my senior in the army. In the post, he said ‘I would like to work as a soldier for ten more years,’ and this phrase became popular in the internet. I heard he wants to erase all of them because he always becomes a laughing-stock everywhere he goes.”
done by the government
As the right to be forgotten is considered important among people, the government announced the “Guideline on the right to request access restriction on personal internet posting” on April, 2016. This guideline contains the regulation that internet users’ rights to delete or exclude others’ access to their own postings should be guaranteed. In other words, if the users ask their postings to be deleted or hidden from the internet, the internet administrator should accept the requests.
However, many raise their voices arguing that the guideline limits the right to erase the users’ own written posts. Lim Gyeo-cheol, the professor of the College of Law, said, “Originally, the internet users can require removing anything they want if it is related to them, but in Korea, they can only demand their own postings to be obliterated.”
In addition, it is early to announce the guideline because the guideline is not perfectly concluded and decided. Assistant administrator of People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Lee Ji-eun, said, “It was rash to announce the guideline while the discussion is going on. Still, there are some people who do not thoroughly agree with the guideline. Also, it is not systematically organized yet, so the procedure of application is complicated. It should have had more negotiation.”
Song Myung-bin (center) and people are participating the opening ceremony of the Digital Aging Laboratory.
/Photography from the Digital Aging Laboratory
Private institutions to erase
personal postings increasing
Since the “Guideline on the right to request access restriction on personal internet posting” has its limits, various types of private institutions, such as the cyber undertaker and the digital aging system, started to turn up to maintain the right to be forgotten. The cyber undertaker, otherwise known as the digital undertaker, is a person who clears all cyber information that has been requested to be erased upon the wishes of their clients. According to Korea Employment Information Service (KEIS), the cyber undertaker is one of the fastest growing jobs, showing the huge demands of their work.
Another example, the Digital Aging System (DAS) is a system that makes all the data on the internet disappear within the time the user sets. Before posting an article or a picture on the internet, the users set the time they want the data to be disappeared and as that time comes, the data gets eliminated. The DAS was introduced by Song Myung-bin, and he established a corporation called the Digital Aging Laboratory (DAL) with Gangwon-do Province in Korea. The DAL applied the technology of the DAS to the website of Gangwon-do Provincial Office and soon the DAS will be applied to 18 more websites. The DAL declared that more people would need the Digital Aging System since the invasion of privacy is increasing now. The Digital Aging Laboratory also mentioned they will make and distribute the digital extinction management application by the end of this year.
On going controversy
regarding the right to be forgotten
Unfortunately, the right to be forgotten is not welcomed by everyone. When the right to be forgotten is institutionalized, the identity of the internet, which is openness, will be contradicted. Furthermore, if the criminals and politicians’ right to be forgotten comes in, the right to know of others would be invaded. For instance, politicians requesting eradication of articles regarding their past faults. Professor Lim Gyeo-cheol commented, “In general, the area of crime, politics, and medicine should be ruled out from the right to be forgotten, but nothing has been concluded yet regarding this issue. To ensure the right to be forgotten, related disputes would have to be solved first.”
The right to be forgotten and the right to know are in a relationship that cannot be guaranteed altogether. Therefore, rather than insisting the consistent attempt to solve both at the same time pursuing harmonious individual solutions could be the main key to solve the antagonistic relationship. Lee Ji-eun, the assistant administrator of PSPD, mentioned, “Both rights definitely need to be ensured. In order for that to happen, discreet discussion is needed. Plus, more sophisticated and improved laws and system should be adapted to create a better internet usage environment.”
Khang Seok-jun, Lee Min-jeong email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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