For the Right to Remove Personal Information on Search Engines in the U.S. Campaign - #R2R




About the Right to Remove

Right to Remove is a campaign for an Internet privacy policy that identifies straightforward categories of sensitive information for the right to remove links and content from search engine results in correlation with someone's name. It aims to help to remove stigmatizing and personal pictures, records, and links from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.

Videos introducing the Right to Remove


Personal information concerning common people and the most vulnerable individuals shouldn’t be available on search engines because it violates their dignity, security, and right to privacy.

Right to Remove is similar to the ideas of Right To Be Forgotten, Right to Obscurity, Right to Delete, or Right to Relevancy. However, for a targeted approach, the Right to Remove privacy policy specifies categories of personal information and types of people that are exposed on the Internet search engines.

The Right to Remove Internet policy focuses on specific classes of sensitive personal information that can be removed to preserve an individual’s dignity and security, while maintaining the right to access other useful data for the general public.

On one hand, regulators need to take a more active and central role in these kinds of legal and ethical debates. On the other, Internet search engine companies need to be open to a public negotiation of workable solutions. We need more sophisticated technical processes by better handling data, flagging information as sensitive, obfuscating the subject, removing data from the search engine, and a right to updated contextual information. Moreover, releasing more information about the volume, character, and classification of removal requests would benefit the public and help inform information policy and the general public. Search engines, data processors, controllers, and brokers should apply data protection principles in a more intelligent and ethical way. The Right to Remove privacy policy should be coupled with corporate and administrative transparency, and detailed guidelines to minimize indiscretion and arbitrariness.




Why the need for the Right to Remove Internet Privacy Policy

Online privacy is increasingly becoming a very concrete social issue impacting families and communities, job opportunities, and mental health. Phenomena such as online harassment, bullying, blackmail, shaming, and hate speech are affecting vulnerable people who do not have the financial and technical means to defend themselves. Basic human dignity is infringed upon, since many are suffering due to stigmas attached to their online information. Search engines have emerged as the gatekeepers of malicious information online. This is why several countries around the world have introduced the so-called Right To Be Forgotten law, which even if not yet perfected, allows for the removal of sensitive information from search engine results. In the United States, there has been a lack of conversation and understanding concerning this right. Furthermore, search engine companies use public relations to polarize public opinion and avoid regulations rather than find practical solutions. To tackle this issue, the campaign Right to Remove is specifically designed to address the need for a basic Right To Be Forgotten policy to remove sensitive information of common people from search engine results.

In particular, Right to Remove is designed to help vulnerable individuals such as victims of injustice, violence, harassment, economic inequality, racism, abuse, and stigmatizing humiliation. This platform is for those who cannot afford legal and technical means such as individuals under pressure from personal relationships, state apparatuses, and financial difficulties.

The urgency of the Right to Remove is about reminding others of online harassment of women, those in the LGBTQ community, and vulnerable individuals. There have been several suicide cases due to bullying and revenge porn, forms of racism and hate speech that trigger physical violence, or public criminal records produced by mass incarceration that unfairly stigmatize people. Search engine firms and the legal instruments available do not handle all of these situations properly. For instance, even information about minors published online is not regulated in most states.




Categories of stigmatizing and personal information

Criminal Justice
About Minors
Intimacy
Free Expression
Health
Financial and Personal Security
General Abuses


None of this information should be searchable on search engines under an individual’s name.
This right applies only to ordinary private individuals and not to businesses, public entities, or public figures.





How the Right to Remove website helps you

The interactive services of the Right to Remove website aim to build empathy and community by providing practical tools for the affected individuals, lobbying for legal changes, and resolving the cause of suffering.

Tools for sharing experiences.
The “Tell” form is designed to share personal experiences and stories concerning the need for the Right to Remove. This online platform can become central in connecting affected people who are currently isolated across the country and will therefore grow the community behind the campaign. It would offer an opportunity to build a community of people affected and their supporters with physical gathering for mutual support, therapeutic groups, and to discuss practical solutions. It would also facilitate the organization of direct lobbying with presence at the search engine companies' headquarters and at agencies in D.C., meeting with officials from the Federal Trade Commission and members of Congress.

Tools for removing search results.
The “Remove” form automatically creates and sends legal letters to search engines asking for the removal of personal sensitive information from their results. The automated takedown letter would directly empower those who cannot afford legal assistance or do not know where to submit their complaints. This simple form includes only the category of sensitive information mentioned above and is thus specifically designed to help vulnerable people. With the collaboration of lawyers and also the search engine companies, the form will submit the legal complaints with specific URLs to remove from the results to make the process fast and effective.

Tools for supporting affected individuals.

The "Support" form would be for advocates, lawyers, therapists, consumers, and privacy rights organizations willing to support affected individuals with their knowledge and advocacy. The suggested laws, technical tools, legal devices, and psychological advice are then provided directly to the affected individuals through the "Remove" tools. The form is designed for submitting legal advice, bills, and legislation that can be used for generating takedown requests. Other options for support include submitting technical tutorials and suggestions for providing emotional or psychological support to the affected individuals.

Petition for Right to Remove.

The Right to Remove would be a simple and workable state bill to be introduced to Congress and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. This petition is for new legislation that should be enacted to provide citizens with privacy protection regarding their personal sensitive data on search engines.


Some recent Legal resources in the U.S. for the Right to Remove


Laws for online privacy and removal inquiries:
https://www.withoutmyconsent.org/50state
Laws for online privacy and removal inquiries:
https://www.cybercivilrights.org/related-laws/
Laws for general online privacy:
https://www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/state-laws-related-to-internet-privacy.aspx
Laws about the publication of Sexually explicit material::
https://www.cybercivilrights.org/revenge-porn-laws/
Laws about the publication of Mugshots:
https://www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/mug-shots-and-booking-photo-websites.aspx
Laws about Cyberbullying:
https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-laws
https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html
https://www.endcyberbullying.org/cyber-bullying-laws-legislations


Some recent Legal Development in the U.S. for the Right to Remove

In 2015, California recently enacted the “eraser button” law that requires operators of online services to allow minors to remove content they have posted on the service.
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB568

In 2015, Blumenthal, Markey, Whitehouse, and Franken introduced legislation in the Senate to ensure transparency and accountability in the data broker industry. The bill can be tracked under code S.668 and the title Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act. However, the bill only addresses the trade of data between brokers and does not specify search engine results.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/668/all-info

In 2015, 26 states already have Revenge Porn Laws. Mary Anne Franks, who drafted the model legislation and advised legislators in the majority of the states, emphasizes that many of these laws are still deeply flawed. Franks announced that she is working with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) on a federal criminal bill.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenge_porn#United_States


In 2015, Consumer Watchdog, a consumers’ rights organization, sent a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an open letter describing Google’s failure to offer the “Right to Be Forgotten” in the United States, as unfair and deceptive.
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/privacy-group-asks-ftc-to-bring-europes-right-to-be-forgotten-to-the-us.html

In general, the Federal Trade Commission has brought legal actions against organizations that have violated consumers’ privacy rights, or misled them by failing to maintain security for sensitive consumer information. In many of these cases, the FTC has charged the defendants with violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive acts and practices in or affecting commerce. In 2015 the FTC’s Commissioner Julie Brill called for the introduction of a Right to Obscurity in the U.S.
https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/righttoobscurity.pdf


Background of the legal notion of the Right to Remove.

In the United States:

Historically, the legal notion can be tracked from U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis, who called it "the right to be let alone" in 1890 with the definition of "the Right to Privacy."

In the U.S. Constitution, some amendments provide certain protection; however, it’s not explicitly stated as the right to privacy. The 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments could be referred for the Right to Remove personal information from search engines.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was enacted in 1970 to address increasing concerns in the 1950s and 1960s over the amount and type of sensitive information held by credit reporting agencies.

As a result of the 1989 case U.S. Department of Justice v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the United States Supreme Court recognized a privacy interest in "practical obscurity."

Torts for Defamation and Invasion of Privacy are common legal litigation models in states without specific laws on privacy rights. They are exercised through lawsuits alleging invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress against individuals. A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a civil wrong that unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.

With expungement rights, some states permit individuals, who are arrested, but not convicted, to expunge their arrest records. In other words, to make them unavailable through the state or Federal repositories. Other states permit some convicts to apply for expungement after time has passed from the completion of their sentences.


In Europe:

This legal notion has its roots in the original French concept of the right to oblivion (droit à l'oubli).

The European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1953, explicitly introduced the right to “respect for private and family life.” The right to privacy is defined by the European Convention on Human Rights, article 8 and the Declaration on Human Rights, article 12.

In 2006, the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg ruled that personal data should be removed from search results with a person’s name when outdated, inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or devoid of purpose, and when there is no public interest. This proclamation was in reference to the so-called Right to Be Forgotten law.


Contacts, Support, and Press for the Right to Remove

Contact email

Write us for support if anything is unclear or for anything you need. Tell us how you would like to participate. Or if you have any helpful ideas for our campaign!

Email

Send an Inquiry

Submit questions, concerns, and ideas with a form. For journalists and media outlets: ask us for an interview with the organizers, lawyers, and affected individuals.

Inquiry

Press Material

Find the press material and kit with images and videos. On Dropbox you can find media material in high definition for press coverage or to promote the campaign.

Download

Get involved with the Right to Remove campaign

Sign the Petition

For a simple and workable federal bill to be introduced to Congress and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Via Change.org you can sign the petition and follow its development.

Sign!

Join the Campaign

For Volunteers, Organizations, Activists, Lawyers, and Affected Individuals: join the friendly group behind the campaign across the country. Via Mobilize.io you can participate in dedicated groups.

Join!

Donate

For boosting the campaign any little donation can help. Right to Remove is an independent and informal group run by volunteers. Via PayPal.com you can donate any amount toward the campaign.

Stay informed on the Right to Remove and related news

Newsletter

Submit your email to receive a monthly newsletter with updates on the campaign.

Twitter

Follow us to know news, tools, and legal developments with the hashtag #R2R

Twitter

Youtube

Watch videos concerning the campaign including press clips and documentaries.

YouTube