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

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

March 28, 2016
Petition to
Congress and
Signatures: 4,783Next Goal: 5,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Paolo Cirio

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 has increasingly become a concrete social issue that impacts families and communities across the United States. Phenomena such as online harassment, bullying, blackmail, shaming, and hate speech affect the most vulnerable among our population, who often do not have the financial and technical means to defend themselves. Due to the stigmas attached to certain information being available online, basic human dignity is infringed upon, because we leave the afflicted at the mercy of data aggregators, extortionists, and online mobs. 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 fundamental privacy right.

Everyday people and vulnerable individuals’ personal information shouldn’t be available on search engines because it violates their dignity, security, and right to privacy.

The Right to Remove is a campaign for an Internet privacy policy that allows for the removal of character-damaging information from the Internet.

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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.

The Right to Remove policy identifies straightforward categories of sensitive information that should be eligible for de-indexing from Internet search engine results:

Criminal Justice
• Data on civil courts cases and registries, such as: divorces, marriages, deaths, and births.
• Data on victims, offenders, witnesses, lawyers, and verdicts.
• 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 private citizens and not to businesses, public entities, or public figures.

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Right2Remove’s urgency has been spurred by the need to raise awareness about the online harassment of women, those in the LGBTQ community, and vulnerable individuals. There have been several suicides due to bullying and revenge porn. Forms of racism and hate speech expressed on the Internet have been known to trigger physical violence. And public criminal records produced by mass incarceration unfairly stigmatize already marginalized groups. Search engine firms and the legal instruments available currently do not handle these situations properly. For instance, even information about minors published online is not regulated in most states.

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Signatures: 4,783Next Goal: 5,000
Support now