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Can we have a right to be forgotten?

Can we have a right to be forgotten?
Privacy is a word that concerns only a tiny section of Indian population. Until the advent of digital and social media, how many of us actually thought of privacy? In India we rather relish the camera zooming into the bedroom of ‘high-profile’ personalities. Tapes revealing intimate or ‘compromising’ position of such people go viral in India. Is it linked to the fact that ‘sex’ tops on the search engine like Google from our country?

While in the Western European countries, privacy is not related to sex-life as much as in India. Recently Germany and the US got into a dirty and unexpected diplomatic row, when it was found that the US has spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls. This incident is not a matter of privacy but of espionage.

So governments are also taking the benefit of the digital and social media, like us to connect to people or to join the dots. But is it only the governments? No! The employers are increasingly looking for more information on prospective candidates on social media. So are financial institutions before giving out loans… So forth and so on.

So the European Union came about with a set of legislations called ‘Right to be forgotten’. An individual can ask to remove pages that may contain private information about him/her.

However, Wikimedia’s transparency report found the laws of ‘Right to be forgotten’ as a veiled censorship. Now any corporate that has done wrong things or a government involved in crime against humanity can also ask Google or any search engine to remove the concerned pages. ‘History is a human right and one of the worst things that a person can do is attempt to use force to silence another says Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikimedia.

Editorial judgements are rarely impartial. So when Google wants to keep all pages without being judgemental then it does, of course, make sense. But there are also counter arguments. You have uploaded a picture on social media in a drunken state, it may affect your employability, or a flat or a car you auctioned on a web may affect your credibility for future loans.

The over-smart reader would then react, why the hell on earth you want to upload your party pictures? But then the reply would be, why should I live in fear of being victimised for my private life-style? Every human has the right to live a free life in her/his social context without breaching the rights of the other.

While we are trying to examine the fine balance between privacy and freedom of living a life the way we want, some of our friends are waiting with their cameras and spy-cams ready to catch ‘spicy’ stories about those who matter. It may be outside the sprawling bungalow of some politician or that of a film star.

Not far from their location most likely is a servant’s quarter or a slum. May we request our friends, instead of featuring who is dating whom, to peep into the kitchen of the faceless Indians to find out if their kids are sleeping with or without food? Or they are rightfully already forgotten?
Dhritabrata Bhattacharjya Tato

Dhritabrata Bhattacharjya Tato

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