Right to be forgotten

September 20, 2023, 4:27 pm | Updated September 20, 2023, 7:23 pm IST
Right to be forgotten
Abstract- This paper explores the applicability and challenges of the Right to be Forgotten concept in the Indian context, where no explicit legislation exists. It examines the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, outlines hurdles such as removal criteria and jurisdictional complexities, and emphasizes the importance of public awareness campaigns. The role of collaboration between governmental bodies and tech companies is highlighted, along with the significance of global alignment of data protection laws. The paper underscores the need for nuanced policy formulation to address the complexities and arrive at a balanced solution for the Right to be Forgotten in India.
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Research Statement

his research seeks to delve into the complex landscape of the Right to be Forgotten in the Indian context, where explicit legislation is absent. The main focus is to shed light on the delicate balance between safeguarding individual privacy and ensuring the free flow of information. By investigating the challenges posed by this concept, such as establishing criteria for information removal, grappling with global jurisdictional issues, and implementing practical measures, this study aims to provide a comprehensive view of the issue.

Moreover, the research underlines the importance of creating public awareness to empower individuals with the knowledge they need to protect their privacy rights effectively. It also emphasizes the role of collaboration between governmental bodies and technology companies, outlining how streamlined protocols and cross-border cooperation can enhance the efficient execution of the Right to be Forgotten.

Additionally, the study highlights the necessity for global alignment of data protection laws, arguing that this can bring about legal clarity, reinforce data security, and help resolve complex jurisdictional challenges in today's digital world. By delving into these intricate aspects, this research contributes to the ongoing discussions surrounding data privacy, freedom of expression, and the Right to be Forgotten. It aspires to provide insights that can guide the formulation of prudent policies and decisions in India's ever-evolving digital landscape.


In today's digital era, the rapid growth of the internet and social media presents a range of incredible opportunities alongside intricate challenges. Among these challenges, finding the delicate equilibrium between an individual's privacy rights and the public's access to information stands out. The concept of the "Right to be Forgotten" has gained considerable attention worldwide, encapsulating this complex balance. This article delves into the notion of the Right to be Forgotten within India's context, exploring its implications and the ongoing discourse surrounding its application.

Comprehending the Right to be Forgotten 

The Right to be Forgotten arises from the belief that individuals should have the authority to manage the visibility of their personal information on the internet. It empowers individuals to request the removal of specific personal data or information that is no longer pertinent, outdated, inaccurate, or excessive. This right primarily aims to shield an individual's privacy and mitigate potential harm caused by obsolete or erroneous information.

European Union's Impact 

The concept of the Right to be Forgotten gained significant prominence following a landmark 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ruling stipulated that search engines, such as Google, must consider requests from individuals to remove specific links containing personal information under certain circumstances. Subsequently, Google devised processes to evaluate and address these requests. This ruling ignited global discussions on the topic, prompting numerous nations to contemplate or adopt similar measures.

The Right to be Forgotten in India 

While India lacks explicit legislation on the Right to be Forgotten, conversations and debates about its applicability in the nation have ensued. The Indian legal system recognizes the right to privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. Several cases, including the Puttaswamy judgment in 2017, have solidified this constitutional safeguarding of privacy.

Even without specific laws, Indian citizens still possess avenues for recourse under existing legal provisions. For instance, they can approach courts to seek the removal of information that infringes on their privacy rights or damages their reputation. Furthermore, individuals can leverage intermediary guidelines issued under the Information Technology Act, 2000, to request the removal of objectionable content from social media platforms and websites.

Obstacles and Discourse 

Implementing the Right to be Forgotten in India confronts a series of challenges and controversies, rendering it a multifaceted and sensitive issue. Striking a balance between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression demands meticulous deliberation from lawmakers and the judiciary. This is crucial to ensure that the law serves its intended purpose without devolving into a tool for censorship. The following provides a deeper exploration of the hurdles involved:

1. Balancing Privacy and Freedom of Expression: The foremost challenge lies in reconciling an individual's privacy rights with the public's access to information. Critics contend that empowering individuals to request information removal may facilitate censorship, enabling individuals to suppress valid information that holds public interest. Establishing transparent criteria and procedures for assessing removal requests becomes imperative to prevent the Right to be Forgotten from being misused.

2. Criteria for Information Removal: Determining the criteria for information removal constitutes a pivotal facet of implementing the Right to be Forgotten. Identifying what qualifies as irrelevant or outdated information, no longer pertinent to public discourse, presents a subjective and intricate task. Similarly, discerning significant historical or public interest data that should be preserved despite individual requests necessitates judicious consideration and legal expertise.

3. Global Jurisdictional Predicaments: The borderless nature of the internet poses jurisdictional dilemmas when enforcing the Right to be Forgotten on a global scale. A removal request in one country might not directly affect information availability in another nation. This prompts inquiries regarding the scope and enforceability of data removal across diverse jurisdictions.

4. Practical Implementation: Effectively implementing the Right to be Forgotten demands collaboration between various stakeholders, encompassing government authorities, tech companies, and international organizations. Forging mechanisms to facilitate cross-border cooperation and align data protection laws becomes critical in addressing the challenges of global enforcement.

5. Clarity in Legal Framework: The absence of explicit legislation on the Right to be Forgotten in India can sow legal ambiguity. Formulating lucid and comprehensive legal guidelines proves indispensable to ensure responsible and equitable exercise of this right.

6. Public Interest versus Personal Privacy: Striking a balance between public interest and personal privacy is a multifaceted endeavor. Upholding the public's right to access information indispensable for historical, journalistic, or academic purposes while respecting an individual's privacy demands thoughtful contemplation.

Public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives

Elevating public awareness and nurturing digital literacy constitute essential elements for the successful implementation of the Right to be Forgotten in India. Enlightening individuals about data privacy rights, the Right to be Forgotten, and responsible online conduct can empower them to safeguard their personal information and make well-informed choices about their online presence. Here's an elaboration on the significance of public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives:

1. Empowering Individuals: Public awareness initiatives can familiarize individuals with their rights concerning data privacy and the Right to be Forgotten. Equipped with this knowledge, individuals can make informed decisions about the information they share and adopt measures to protect their privacy.

2. Promoting Responsible Digital Citizenship: Digital literacy campaigns can instruct individuals about prudent online behavior. This encompasses recognizing the consequences of sharing personal data, being mindful of posted content, and appreciating the potential risks associated with excessive sharing or engaging in detrimental online activities.

3. Encouraging Active Data Management: Awareness campaigns can underscore the value of periodic reviews and management of ones digital footprint. This entails conducting regular audits of online accounts, adjusting privacy settings, and proactively seeking the removal of obsolete or sensitive information.

4. Shielding Vulnerable Groups: Public awareness endeavors can specifically target vulnerable groups, such as children, elderly individuals, and those with limited digital literacy. Ensuring that these groups comprehend their rights and the means to safeguard their privacy is vital for shielding them from potential hazards and exploitation.

3. Striking a Balance of Rights: The collaboration between tech companies and governmental bodies can aid in striking a balance between privacy protection and information accessibility. Transparent procedures ensure that valid requests for data removal are honored while preventing the abuse of the Right to be Forgotten for stifling information.

4. Addressing Cross-Border Complexities: As tech companies operate globally, they frequently encounter challenges in complying with diverse nations' legal stipulations. Collaboration with governmental authorities can engender mechanisms to handle cross-border data removal requests and ensure harmonious cooperation across jurisdictions.

5. Cultivating Accountability and Trust: Transparent procedures and collaboration nurture accountability, augmenting public trust in the management of data removal requests. When individuals are confident that their requests are treated fairly and responsibly, they're more inclined to engage with tech companies and assert their rights.

6. Establishing Feedback Channels: Collaboration facilitates the establishment of feedback mechanisms between tech companies and governmental bodies. This engenders an ongoing dialogue aimed at refining data privacy practices, ensuring compliance, and addressing emerging predicaments.

7. Access to Resources: Tech companies possess advanced tools and technologies that expedite data processing and the identification of removable information. This access accelerates the response to removal requests and amplifies the efficacy of the Right to be Forgotten.

8. User Education: Collaborating with tech companies enables targeted user education endeavors. Corporations can acquaint their users with their rights, the procedure for requesting data removal, and the wider significance of data privacy.

5. Cultivating Trust in Online Services: When individuals possess better awareness of their data privacy rights and the availability of the Right to be Forgotten, they're more likely to place trust in online services. This can lead to heightened user engagement, cultivating a favorable environment for digital advancement and economic growth.

6. Collaborative Efforts with Stakeholders: Public awareness initiatives can bring together governmental bodies, tech corporations, civil society organizations, and educational institutions in a collaborative endeavor to collectively address data privacy challenges. Such collaborative actions can result in more all-encompassing and efficient awareness campaigns.

7. Fostering a Culture of Privacy: By encouraging a culture that values privacy, awareness campaigns can shape societal attitudes toward data protection. A culture that upholds privacy and esteems individuals' rights can foster a more accountable and respectful online community.

8. Dispelling Misinformation and Myths: Digital literacy efforts can also dispel misinformation and misconceptions regarding data privacy and the Right to be Forgotten. Furnishing accurate information enables individuals to base decisions on facts rather than fallacies.

Collaboration and the necessity for transparent and standardized procedures

Collaboration between governmental bodies and technology companies is pivotal for effectively implementing the Right to be Forgotten and addressing the pragmatic challenges arising within the digital landscape. The role of tech companies in managing and processing extensive volumes of user data has grown significantly, underscoring the importance of their cooperation for the successful execution of the Right to be Forgotten. Here's a closer examination of the significance of collaboration and the necessity for transparent and standardized procedures:

1. Proficiency in Handling Data: Tech companies possess profound expertise in data management, storage, and retrieval. Collaborating with them allows governmental bodies to leverage this proficiency and gain deeper insights into the technical dimensions of data removal requests.

2. Streamlined Protocols: Developing standardized procedures for evaluating removal requests can streamline the application of the Right to be Forgotten. This ensures uniform decision-making and facilitates a more efficient response to individual requests.

Fostering international cooperation in safeguarding data and privacy is indispensable for mitigating the challenges engendered by the global reach of the internet. As the digital realm transcends geographical borders, data flows fluidly between nations, yielding jurisdictional complexities and potential conflicts in enforcing data protection laws. Against this backdrop, the global alignment of data protection laws assumes paramount importance in establishing a unified approach to privacy and information freedom across different countries.

Advantages of Global Alignment

1. Cohesion and Legal Clarity: A harmonized global framework would furnish consistency and legal lucidity for businesses, individuals, and governments alike. It would define explicit guidelines and benchmarks for data protection, diminishing ambiguity and ensuring a consistent understanding of privacy rights and responsibilities.

2. Enhanced Data Security: Collaboration between nations in developing robust data protection measures can elevate global data security practices. Cyber threats often transcend national boundaries, and cooperation can facilitate the exchange of best practices and threat intelligence to fortify online safety.

3. Facilitating Transnational Business: A harmonized approach would simplify cross-border data transfers, enabling businesses to operate internationally without grappling with varying and sometimes conflicting data protection regulations.

4. Reinforcing User Trust: A global consensus on data protection can cultivate enhanced user trust in digital services. When individuals feel assured that their personal data is shielded, they're more inclined to participate in online activities, fostering the expansion of the digital economy.

5. Resolving Jurisdictional Predicaments: Harmonized data protection laws would alleviate the difficulties linked to determining which nation's laws are applicable when data is stored or processed across multiple jurisdictions. This can forestall legal disputes and ensure the effective enforcement of privacy rights.


The Right to be Forgotten stands as an evolving concept, and its application in India remains a topic of debate and discussion. While India acknowledges the right to privacy as a fundamental right, the degree to which it should extend to the internet domain continues to be a contentious matter. Achieving equilibrium between an individual's privacy rights and the public's access to information presents a substantial challenge for policymakers and the judiciary.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it's imperative to formulate comprehensive legislation that preserves individuals' privacy without stifling freedom of expression and access to information. A nuanced approach that takes into account both individual rights and public interest will be pivotal in addressing the complexities of the Right to be Forgotten in India. Through collaboration, public awareness, and considerate policy formulation, India can arrive at a balanced solution that respects privacy while upholding the principles of information freedom in the digital age.


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