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The Right to be Forgotten: Its Potential Role in a Coherent Privacy Regime

Kieron O’Hara, Nigel Shadbolt


This paper examines the recent Google Spain ruling establishing a right to de-indexing based on existing rights to data protection. This ruling has had a divisive effect on the relations between the EU and the US, but this article argues that we should understand the right to de-indexing in the context of: (i) moves to improve communication with data subjects and support subjects’ autonomy, particularly within the notice and consent regime; (ii) understanding the role of obscurity of information, and undermining the current binary assumption that information is either public or not; and (iii) moves to improve the quality of search engines’ output. If we do this, then the right to be de-indexed (and possibly other types of ‘right to be forgotten’) could become a point of contact between the EU and US privacy regimes, not a point of conflict.

Kieron O'Hara, Web and Internet Science Group, Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom; <>.
Nigel Shadbolt, Dept of Computer Science,University of Oxford, Wolfson Building, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QD, United Kingdom; <>.


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