Introducing the Right to Remove Personal Information from Search Engines in the U.S.

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This petition is for new legislation that should be enacted to provide citizens with privacy protection regarding their sensitive data on search engines.

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Online privacy is increasingly becoming a very concrete social issue impacting families and communities, job opportunities, and mental health. Phenomena such as online harassment, bullying, blackmail, shaming, and hate speech are affecting vulnerable people who do not have the financial and technical means to defend themselves. Basic human dignity is infringed upon, since many are suffering due to stigmas attached to their online information. Search engines have emerged as the gatekeepers of malicious information online. This is why several countries around the world have introduced the so-called Right To Be Forgotten law, which even if not yet perfected, allows for the removal of sensitive information from search engine results. In the United States, there has been a lack of conversation and understanding concerning this right.

Personal information concerning common people and the most vulnerable individuals shouldn’t be available on search engines because it violates their dignity, security, and right to privacy.

Right to Remove is an Internet privacy policy which identifies straightforward categories of personal information for the legal right to remove links and content from search engines results.

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The Right to Remove would be a simple and workable federal bill to be introduced to Congress and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

Special categories of information that have an impact on the privacy and security of a subject’s private life and should be part of a basic Right to Remove from search engines:

Criminal Justice
• Data on civil courts cases and registries such as: divorces, marriages, deaths, and births.
• Data on victims, offenders, witnesses, lawyers, verdicts, and testimonies of offenses.
• Data collected and filed in courtrooms and in law enforcement offices.

About Minors
• Data about minors posted or used by them or by any other parties.
• Bullying, such as unkind commentary, mocking, hate speech, and name-calling. 

• Information of an intimate nature, such as family matters and personal relationships.
• Explicit sexual content, such as “revenge porn” or unconsented explicit material.
• Information on sexuality or sexual orientation, activities, and preferences.

Free Expression
• Information on political affiliations, voting records, and opinion.
• Information on religious beliefs, preferences, and activities.
• Information on ethnicity, race, and citizenship status.

• Information on the use of drugs for recreation or due to addiction.
• Data on a person’s health, such as medication, disabilities, and diseases.

Financial and Personal Security
• Data on personal financial records such as debt or assets.
• Data that uniquely identifies a subject, such as ID, license plate, or biometric data.
• Data collected inside private property, workplaces, or governmental offices.

General Abuses
• Information about victims of abuse, violence, threats, extortion, exploitation, and humiliation.
• Information that perpetually or periodically stigmatizes a person as a consequence of past situations.

None of this information should be searchable on search engines under an individual’s name.
This right applies only to ordinary private individuals and not to businesses, public entities, or public figures.

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The urgency of the Right to Remove is about reminding others of online harassment of women, those in the LGBTQ community, and vulnerable individuals. There have been several suicide cases due to bullying and revenge porn, forms of racism and hate speech that trigger physical violence, or public criminal records produced by mass incarceration that unfairly stigmatize people. Search engine firms and the legal instruments available do not handle all of these situations properly. For instance, even information about minors published online is not regulated in most states.


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