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"Right to be forgotten" in Internet meets mixed response in Russia

June 16, 2015, 19:26 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Anastasia Osipova

MOSCOW, June 16. /TASS/. Russia’s newly adopted bill the State Duma voted for on Tuesday afternoon promising every single individual the right to demand that Internet search engines should erase all undesirable personal information on the one hand is geared to addressing old-time problems, but on the other, violates their constitutional rights to search for and obtain information, analysts say. Many of them believe the proposed legal act already needs considerable amendments.

The State Duma on Tuesday afternoon voted in the first reading for a bill making amendments to the federal law On Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information. According to the package of amendments, unofficially dubbed as a bill on "The Right to be Forgotten," individuals will obtain the right to demand without a prior court ruling the search engines should delete all inaccurate or irrelevant information about themselves or information being spread in violation of the applicable legislation. The term irrelevant information applies to any information older than three years. If a search engine refuses to remove it, the claimant is free to demand in a court of law this information be removed under the threat of major fines.

The bill’s authors believe that its adoption would contribute to better protection of the honor, dignity and business reputation of individuals.

A similar rule took effect in the European Union a year ago. A court then obliged all IT-companies running search engines to respond to requests for deleting personal data of no interest to the public. However, the search engines treat each request for deleting personal data they get in the European countries on an individual basis.

In the meantime, the bill has drawn a mixed response from Internet-companies and the public at large. Internet-related industry representatives have expressed their strong disagreement with many clauses of the bill. A Google official has said that the proposed rules are greatly different from the EU’s "Right to be Forgotten." Yandex said in its reply that the proposed mechanism would in no way restrict the circulation of controversial personal data in the world web, but at the same time run counter to the basic principles of law and the applicable legislation. When effective, the law will make it impossible to find crucial authentic information of great interest to the public. For instance, legislators may demand removal of compromising evidence about their past and the voters will be unable to see them. The right to be forgotten paves a wide way for abuse, because information may begin to be deleted after a simple request alone, without offering any reasons.

The Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets quotes analyst Anton Nosik as saying "any person with a past to be ashamed of will get an opportunity to have information removed from the search engines or to declare any critical comment about one’s job and career as ‘inauthentic’."

"The adoption of the "right to be forgotten" law will considerably restrict the people’s constitutional right to look for and get information in any legal way," the director of the Russian Association of Electronic Communications, Sergey Plugotarenko, has told TASS. "Besides, the operators of the search engines have been saddled with the function of government and judicial bodies, because it is up to the operator to decide if this or that piece of information about the claimant is authentic, and if this or that event in question took place three years ago, or just one year ago."

The proposed law requires the search engines should consider requests, find the hyperlinks in question, dispatch relevant notifications, and terminate the issue of links permitting access to information about the claimant, but it ignores the fact that such measures require considerable funding, while its sources remain unidentified, Plugotarenko said.

Lecturer Lyudmila Vasilenko, of the Russian presidential academy RANEPA, has told TASS her attitude to the bill is dual. "On the one hand, I agree with the Internet community in its efforts to safeguard the right to freedom. But on the other, the defamatory information one can see in the Internet cannot but cause alarm. For instance, I am unable to remove lies other people may write about me or correct my own mistakes in the posts about myself."

The problem does exist, Vasilenko said, and it should be addressed precisely the way the international Internet community has preferred to go about this business.

"The representatives of the leading domains in the Internet manage to come to terms with each other without any intervention by the government. We are used to seeing the government do everything for us. There should be self-control, a situation where civil servants will not be making decisions for us. In a word, very careful action must be taken in this field, with the interests of different parties taken into account.

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