Coping with the Right to be Forgotten: A Business Opportunity

By Herb Lin
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 9:37 AM

According to a European Commission fact sheet on the Right to Be Forgotten, “individuals have the right - under certain conditions - to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them.” Since this right apparently does not require deletion from the World Wide Web of that information itself, there seems to be a business model in this rule for some enterprising party.

  • Search engine companies would not report in their search results links to information that must be forgotten, but would note for users the existence of links that had been suppressed.
  • Search engine companies would enter into contracts with an enterprising company (call it PMC, for the Permanent Memory Company) to identify the links they had suppressed.

  • PMC would archive the material to which these links pointed.

  • PMC would make such material freely available to anyone who wanted to search the archive.

  • PMC would be able to support itself through crowdfunding and donations, since nearly all of the process described above could be automated.

I freely acknowledge that this model sounds like a hack, to put it mildly. But maybe someone else has a better idea for pushing back on a rule that really does seem like an invitation to censor the Web coming from a group of liberal democratic nations.