‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Laws to Be Strictest in Russia

Russia’s “Right to Be Forgotten” (RtBF) guidelines will be much stricter than those of other European countries, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

When people in Europe search for themselves on Google, Yahoo and Bing, they have the option to have links removed, provided they have a compelling reason why the content is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant.” Russians have more freedom, with the option to have information deleted without providing specific links. Unlike the rest of Europe, Russia’s RtBF guidelines also extend to public figures.

If a Moscow man wanted a report about his involvement in a drunken brawl wiped from search engines, the companies would have to find and delete every link referencing it, regardless of their legitimacy. Denying someone’s request can result in a court appearance and possibly a fine of 3 million rubles, which is equivalent to about $54,000.

Having to check the validity of such a vast number of links will complicate business for search engines. Yandex – Russia’s largest search engine, which has about 60 percent of the country’s market share – points out that the bill violates the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which grants citizens the freedom to seek information.

“This bill ignores the basic principles of information technology and information search,” it says in the company’s blog, adding that putting the onus on search companies to delete links, without requiring people to specific which ones, makes the task next to impossible.

“Instead of deleting hyperlinks to specific web pages from search results, a search engine is expected to stop retrieving a piece of information on any search terms and regardless of its location on the Internet. For this to become plausible, a search engine operator would have to find all pages containing this information that might appear in any place in search results triggered by any search term that a human mind can come up with. This step alone would take eternity,” the blog continues. 

Yandex adds that the bill also provides loopholes for criminals to commit fraud or businesses to unscrupulously undermine their competitors.

RtBF has been talked about since 2006 and was finally put into action last year. Most recently, the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés, France’s data protection authority gave Google until the end of the month to apply RtBF to the database. In Russia, the bill garnered the support of 423 of 424 lawmakers. With two more votes and the president’s signature, the law will take effect on January 1.

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