French Archivists Say No To Proposed "Right To Be Forgotten"

As privacy rights gain greater focus in the European Union, one group says that giving individuals the right to remove personal material from the Internet would complicate historical record-keeping.

What's the Latest Development?

Amid calls in the European Union for more detailed online privacy laws, the Association of French Archivists is pushing back with a petition of their own claiming that allowing individuals to remove personal data from the Internet "could complicate the collection and digitization of mundane public documents...that form a first draft of history." While the group acknowledges the public's fears about unauthorized use of data, they believe that they could serve as guardians for certain kinds of records that need not be available publicly. Not surprisingly, the archivists have received support from genealogists and historians, among others; the petition currently has close to 50,000 signatures.

What's the Big Idea?

"The right to be forgotten" is one of the more contentious of the many online privacy proposals being considered by the EU Parliament. Technically individuals can remove data that they've posted themselves, but given the nature of the Internet, it's all but impossible to ensure that data posted about them by others can be completely scrubbed. Besides, says Association of French Archivists president Jean-Philippe Legois, "e-mail, Facebook, Twitter — this is the correspondence of the 21st century. If we want to understand the society of today in the future, we have to keep certain traces."

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Read it at The New York Times

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