Costa Rica: Forget Me Google!

Last Updated: 7 July 2017
Article by Victoria Martínez

Article on the Right to be Forgotten regarding the reform to the Regulation of Law 8968.

Thanks to the progressive universalization of the internet and the liberalization of its access, the triumph of social media and free creation of websites, we find ourselves facing a limitless digital world. Big data usage has become an essential part of our day to day. Companies haven't been fools about it, they've known how to take advantage, especially of the generalized disregard that still reigns in the grand majority of internet users.

While this grants great benefits to society, it also supposes a notable risk to individual's privacy. The ease with which information is accessed is a double-edged knife, because it limits the capacity to select the data. Both images freely posted online as well as –in extreme cases- sensible data such as our banking information can be accessed, as well as our political or religious opinions which we believe to be private in a blog or post that can leave us in a compromising situation with third parties.

We speak about everything. Everything that interests us, that surrounds us, can be accessed through the internet. Companies know this... And so does Google.

This triumphing search engine is our biggest ally online, but it can also be our worst enemy. We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Google is who helps us find everything we need (like a "21st-century mother"), but it also collects all our data and is the leading company in selling it to third parties.

However, thanks to the Regulation of Law 89868 of Data Protection of the Republic of Costa Rica and its recent reform, we found an escape route from this situation with companies that have our data. We find it in article 11 of said Regulation, because of a new wording of the reform published in La Gaceta on December 6th, 2016, through which it is not allowed to store data for a longer period than 10 years once the relationship that permitted it has ended unless previously agreed upon.

The Right to be Forgotten doesn't emerge as new fundamental right, but as a projection of the rights to intimacy and data protection, over which many postures have been made both in favor and against.

Its detractors argue that seeing this right in this way is a possible alteration of history and a brake on the right of information, being that if it is implemented in digital cases such as the one we're discussing, it should be against the one in possession of the data and not against the search engine.

On the contrary, those who are in favor of this right see an escape route from "big data" and the consequences it brings, because any person can be persecuted by their past. This right can be implemented in Costa Rica according to this article within a ten-year term, or before if there were an agreement. However, in the digital world, it ought to be implemented against Google itself because it is not only seen as a search engine, but as a massive information warehouse, and -thanks to this right- we can eliminate our fingerprint from its online search engine.

Stemming from this right, a conflict emerges regarding fundamental rights of intimacy and protection of personal data, the freedom of expression of the editor of the web page of origin and of the search engine itself, as well as the right of users to collect data through it.

The information that is stored online can be erroneous or become erroneous with time, it can be irrelevant, it can be outdated or obsolete, it can be inadequate or not penitent, and it all endures of the Internet for an undetermined amount of time. This information or data that appears online can be misinterpreted or used against the person it refers to, acting in detriment of dignity and free development of personality.

For the rights of the affected person to be applied, perjury to the person isn't a requirement.

The Right to be Forgotten has a meaningful incidence in search engines and social media, in which special attention must be put on the value of informed consent of the individual as a key element to settle the bases on which the Right to be Forgotten is to be applied. The distinction between information published by oneself and information published by a third party with our consent becomes necessary.

Protection of personal data and the rights of thirds parties within technological progress supposes a challenge to the practice of Law. What's intended is to achieve a balance between personal data protection, the purposes of the information society, and the legitimate interests of both economic operators and Internet users. But there is still a long way to go in order to achieve a balance between these forces and reach our privacy protection goals, our right to be forgotten, and free information access.

So, forget me Google!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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