Russia is the latest country to recognize the dangers posed by big tech companies who collect data and store it indefinitely. The communist country is pushing a new “right to be forgotten” law (RTBF) modeled on the already in-effect EU statute, in order to combat tech companies keeping and publishing outdated or inaccurate information.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year confirmed that EU citizens have a fundamental right to request search engines take down links to outdated or irrelevant information about them. Russia had been closely watching the ruling and hopes to have its law in place by January 2016.
Where things may get different in Russia is that under the EU law, public figures, such as politicians. cannot simply re-write history. Activists fear the Russian law may be intended to do just that.
The Russian law also proposes to be much tougher, with search engines having to fully comply with takedown requests upon receiving them. In the European Union search companies have the right to scrutinize the requests in order to make sure, in their eyes, the requests are warranted. Without such a check, its possible whole swathes of truth could be removed from the internet by interested parties.
Since the ECJ ruling Google has received more than 250,000 such requests concerning nearly one million URLs. Personal information has been de-linked from the search index in just 41 per cent of cases.
While the Russian proposal may be at one extreme, Google's current system has no published guidelines or legal rules about how it is making these judgments. Instead Google gives examples of times it did and did not accept the requests by publishing a so-called transparency report.
Over 80 lawyers have thus far asked for more information on how, exactly, it was making these decisions.
Russian presidential aide Igor Shchyogolev said: “Citizens must be able to use the right to be forgotten.”
Interestingly, the Russian plan will see the state censor, Roskomnadzor, handle the requests. The body has wide ranging power to block internet websites, censor newspapers and interfere with communications it deems to be counter to Russian interests.