MKs file Israeli ‘right to be forgotten’ bill

MKs file Israeli ‘right to be forgotten’ bill

Law would enable courts to order removal of search results that cause undue harm to individuals

Illustrative image of a Google search (screenshot: YouTube)
Illustrative image of a Google search (screenshot: YouTube)

A bill advocating the “right to be forgotten,” which would enable individuals to remove themselves from internet search results if a court finds that these cause them undue harm, was filed at the Knesset on Monday.

The bill, which follows the example of a similar European court ruling in May, would give Israeli courts the authority to instruct internet search providers to remove results that reference an individual if judges find such removal to be justified “while balancing between the interest of the petitioner to remove the link and the interest of the public to retain it.”

According to the bill, a person would only be able to petition the court to remove search results after petitioning the search engine in question and being rebuffed.

The bill stresses that, in many cases, the public’s right to know would outweigh a person’s right to privacy. Authorizing removal would depend on many factors including the identity of the petitioner and the amount of harm caused to him, the nature of the information and its sensitivity and the importance of keeping the information available to the public.

In the bill’s preamble, its authors explained that “unlike a ‘regular’ news item which the law states can be removed by courts, search engines do not produce new information, rather they present data which existed on the internet beforehand.” Such data provided out of context could cause excessive harm to individuals “with no time limit.”

“Internet memory is infinite, and despite the many advantages of this memory, it should be limited when it causes undue harm,” MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), one of the bill’s authors said.

MK Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid (Photo credit: Flash90)
MK Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid (Photo credit: Flash90)

“Freedom of information and its availability are important principles. No less important is an individual’s ability to remove information which is untrue or which has long-since become irrelevant.”

“I’m sure the courts will use this law cautiously, but the tool must be at their, and at our, disposal,” he added.

In May, the European Court of Justice ruled that individuals have the right to have links to information about them deleted from searches in certain circumstances, such as if the data is outdated or inaccurate.

Google received 12,000 requests from people seeking to be “forgotten” by the world’s leading search engine on the first day it offered the service, a company spokesman in Germany said Saturday.

The requests, submitted on Friday, came after Google set up an online form to allow Europeans to request the removal of results about them from Internet searches.

Google said that each request would be examined individually to gauge whether it meets the ruling’s criteria.

The US-based Internet giant declined to estimate how long it might take for the links to disappear, saying factors such as whether requests are clear-cut will affect how long it takes.

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