TRUSTe logo. (PRNewsFoto/TRUSTe)

According to new findings from a study conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of TRUSTe, 64% of British internet users agree that the ‘Right to be Forgotten’* should be a human right, while 44% believe that it allows for censorship. One in four (24%) think the ‘right to be forgotten’ is not practical.

The ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ ruling in May 2014 allows EU citizens to request that search engines remove links to personal information where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive. Since the ruling, many have debated whether individuals should have the ability to edit their online identities to protect their personal privacy, specifically if the information is believed to be irrelevant. The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ has to be balanced against other rights such as freedom of expression and the media leading to time-consuming case-by-case assessments.

The research findings are highlighted in the 2015 TRUSTe RTBF Privacy Index GB Edition and are based on data from an online survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, commissioned by TRUSTe, with 1,000 adults aged 16-75 questioned online in Great Britain between 28 November and 5 December 2014. According to the survey, 65% support people living in the UK and wider European Union having the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ and 68% agree it helps individuals enhance the protection of their personal data.

Russia also recently signed a ‘right to be forgotten’ bill into law, and many are now anticipating who will be next to adopt the law. Some U.S. states are already heading in a similar direction as the controversial “erase button” lawhas been in effect in California since May 2015. This law requires that websites allow people under the age of 18 to remove their own postings on that website, and clearly explain how to do so. This could signify the beginning of an important trend in moving towards the right to be forgotten in other regions outside of the EU and putting more users in control of their online identities.

Many British internet users have given away their personal information to companies online, including their phone number, address, email address, birth date, etc. Of the internet users surveyed, 40% said they wish they had not knowingly shared their telephone number with an organisation or company online. Among those who had knowingly shared personal information they wished they had not, more than half (55%) said they would request for their telephone number to be removed, 34% would request removal of their address and 15% said they would request to remove photos of themselves if there was an option to do so.

“Even though Europeans are known for placing a great deal of value on their privacy, our research shows that British internet users are actually more sceptical about the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ than Americans, with 44% agreeing that it allows for censorship compared with 29% of Americans,” said Chris Babel, CEO, TRUSTe. “The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ ruling gives EU citizens greater control of their online identities. Perhaps most significantly though, the ruling presents challenges for internet publishers and search engines who have the difficult job of allocating significant resources to support the large number of incoming requests.”

Research Methodology
The GB research was conducted by Ipsos MORI using an online survey among a representative quota sample of 1,000 adults aged 16-75 in Great Britain between 28 November and 5 December 2014. Among these, 595 reported they had knowingly shared information that they wished they had not shared. Quotas were set by age, gender, region, working status and social grade and the survey data weighted to the known population proportions at the analysis stage.

The U.S. research was conducted by Ipsos using an online survey among a representative quota sample of 1,000 adults aged 18-75 in the U.S. between 28 November and 5 December 2014. Among these, 619 reported they had knowingly shared information that they wished they had not shared. Quotas were set by age, gender, region and working status and survey data weighted to the known population proportions at the analysis stage.

*Respondents were presented with a description of the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ as allowing people ‘living in the UK and wider European Union having the right, under certain conditions, to ask searching engines to remove links with personal information about them.’

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