Should there be a right to be forgotten?

For Immediate Release
Mon, 11/30/2015


Nancy Gravatt
Press Officer
Washington Office

Or does this interfere with the public’s right to know? -- Find out at ALA's 2016 Midwinter Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Personal blogs, arrest records, explicit photos and business critiques are now typically published forever. Should individuals have the right to have links to certain personal information removed from web search results? The European Union decided that the answer is yes—but should the United States adopt comparable public policy?

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) will examine this important topic during a Saturday, January 9 panel discussion that will be held at 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at ALA’s Midwinter Conference at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Expert speakers include Gail Slater, vice president, legal and regulatory policy, Internet Association, which represents the leading Internet companies, and James G. Neal, university librarian emeritus, Columbia University, member of the board of trustees, Freedom to Read Foundation, and a member of ALA’s executive board. The session will be moderated by Alan S. Inouye, director of ALA’s OITP.

The “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) refers to an individual’s right to compel a search engine service to have a process for removing links to certain personal information from search results involving his or her name.

Dan Lee, chair of the OITP Advisory Committee and director of the Office of Copyright Management and Scholarly Communication at the University of Arizona, explains that:  “Libraries and librarians preserve and provide access to information. Since RTBF obscures information or essentially hides it from those searching on the Internet, it effectively removes access to information.  This poses a challenge to a librarian’s social responsibility to help users find the information they need, and is especially harmful when there is a clear public interest in having access to it.”  On the other hand, he said, “people should have control over the visibility of their own information. Sometimes, there are compelling reasons for why access to certain information should be eliminated or minimized. Thus, there is a fundamental tension between the rights of individuals and society. This should be a very interesting panel.”

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.