Will Americans Demand “the Right To Be Forgotten”?

Will Americans Demand “the Right To Be Forgotten”?

Will Americans Demand “the Right To Be Forgotten”?

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 22 2011 10:01 AM

Will Americans Demand “the Right To Be Forgotten”?

While Europe has embraced the idea that (under most circumstances) data-gathering companies have an obligation to delete personal information upon request, no such right yet exists in America. Natasha Singer writes in in the New York Times that she was disconcerted when her dentist began sending her “appointment reminders” via text message, using a third-party company. Singer considered this a violation of her privacy and an abuse of the information she had given to her dentist.

“In the United States,” she writes, “personal information about a consumer generally may be kept by the company that processes it—except for certain regulated industries like credit. Individual companies in many sectors set their own policies on data retention. Some agree to delete information; others don’t.” In Europe, Meanwhile:

[U]nder the data protection directive of the European Union, people who have contracted with a company generally have a right to withdraw their permission for it to keep their personal data. Under this “right to be forgotten,” Europeans who terminate frequent-flier memberships, for example, can demand that airlines delete their flight and mileage records. …
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Relatedly, a survey recently indicated that more than half of Americans will trade location data for coupons. There seems to be a split developing between those who are eager to swap personal info for better business, and those who are increasingly concerned about the information floating around out there.

Read more on the New York Times.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.