Understanding the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’: What It Means and How It Works

Featured In:
Insurance Ireland GDPR

In an age where data is the new gold, individuals are seeking to regain control over their digital identities. Central to this movement is the concept of the ‘Right to Be Forgotten‘, a pivotal piece of legislation that’s causing ripples across the internet landscape. In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the crux of this right, shedding light on its intricacies, implications, and the steps one can take to exercise it.

1. The Origin and Essence of the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

The ‘Right to Be Forgotten‘, more formally known as the ‘Right to Erasure‘, is enshrined as Article 17 of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Instituted in May 2018, the GDPR was a defining juncture for digital privacy, fundamentally altering how organisations approach and manage personal data.

Article 17 empowers EU citizens with a potent tool to exert control over their digital footprints. Whether it’s a past indiscretion, outdated personal information, or simply data that has served its purpose, this provision allows individuals to request that specific personal data be deleted. The underpinning rationale is clear: in a digital age, individuals ought to have a say in what appears about them online, especially if such information has become obsolete, is no longer relevant, or is factually erroneous.

2. When Can One Exercise this Right?

Not every request for data erasure will be granted. The grounds under which this right can be exercised, as per GDPR, include:

  • The data is no longer necessary for the purpose it was collected.
  • The individual withdraws consent.
  • The individual objects to the processing, and there’s no overriding legitimate reason for continuing it.
  • The data has been unlawfully processed.
  • Legal compliance.
  • Data has been collected related to the offer of information society services to a child.

3. The Role of Search Engines and Online Platforms

Major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are at the forefront of this legislative movement. Post-GDPR, these search engines introduced online forms where EU residents could file ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ requests.

However, it’s crucial to note that search engines can decline these requests if the data serves public interest, is vital for freedom of expression, or is essential for legal claims.

4. The Impact Beyond the EU

While the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ is an EU legislation, its influence spans globally. Many search engines, out of prudence or respect for privacy, often apply these rules outside the EU. Moreover, countries like Argentina, South Korea, and India have begun exploring similar legal frameworks, highlighting the global momentum towards digital privacy.

5. Challenges and Criticisms

The right, while revolutionary, isn’t without its criticisms. Detractors argue it can be weaponised to rewrite history or suppress free speech. Balancing the right to personal privacy with the public’s right to information is a complex task, with no easy solutions.

6. How to Exercise Your ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

For those seeking to leverage this right, the process is relatively straightforward:

  1. Identify the specific piece of information you wish to be removed.
  2. Approach the website or platform hosting this data. If it’s a search engine, they typically provide online forms for such requests.
  3. Clearly state your reasons, aligning them with the grounds listed in the GDPR.
  4. If the request is denied, you have the right to appeal to your country’s data protection authority.

7. The Future of the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

As data privacy continues to gain precedence, it’s anticipated that more countries will adopt regulations echoing the GDPR’s principles. Moreover, as AI and machine learning proliferate, there’ll be greater onus on tech giants to ensure automated decision-making respects these rights.


In a world brimming with digital data, the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ is a beacon for personal privacy. It’s a testament to the idea that in the vast expanse of the internet, the individual still matters. As with all rights, it comes with responsibilities – both for individuals invoking it and the entities upholding it.

To navigate this landscape, expert guidance often proves invaluable. At Reputation Online, we champion your right to digital autonomy, guiding you through the complexities of the modern web. If you’re seeking assistance or simply have questions, feel free to reach out.


  • European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Text
  • Google Transparency Report: European Privacy Requests for Search Removals
  • Statista, “Number of URLs requested to be removed from Google Search due to the right to be forgotten from May 2014 to May 2020”
  • Data Protection Commission: Right to Be Forgotten Guidelines

Apply Online

Submit an online application to discuss your case with our team

Reputation Online - A Repuserve brand

We remove misinformation and unwanted content from Google and other search engines, rebuild your reputation, and refresh your online presence.

Apply Online

Submit an online application to discuss your case with our team

Reputation Online - A Repuserve brand

We remove misinformation and unwanted content from Google and other search engines, rebuild your reputation, and refresh your online presence.

© 2023 Reputation Online, a trading name of Repuserve Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Company Number: 15101762, Registered Address: 1.10, The Maltings East Tyndall Street, Cardiff, Wales, CF24 5EA | Registered in England and Wales.