The Internet has made information easier to share and access than ever before. As long as links remain live, it also means that age is not a barrier to discovery, with search engines able to sort through billions of pages in order to highlight results.

This possibility makes a major contribution to the usability of the Internet. At the same time, there have been growing concerns about how easy it can be to discover information that people, for a variety of reasons may wish to consign to history. 

With laws and judgements in the European Union and elsewhere emerging from 2013, onwards, IFLA released a statement on the Right to Be Forgotten. In this, IFLA notes that “while the intent of the right to be forgotten is not generally to destroy information or to entirely remove it from availability through the Internet, it makes published information much more difficult to find. In practice, this can, in some cases, have the same effect as removing information”.

As a result, the statement underlines the importance of a careful balance between privacy and access, with transparent and proportionate approach to decision-making. It also stressed that the removal of links from search engine results should not lead to the destruction of the underlying information. And it encouraged IFLA’s members to watch out for similar legislation or judgements in their countries, and to engage in order to protect the principles set out in the statement.

On 29 May 2017, library representatives and other civil society organisations were received at the Senate of Chile. The Comisión de Constitución, Legislación, Justicia y Reglamento of the Senate is currently discussing the Draft Law that regulates the protection and treatment of personal data and creates the Protection of Personal Data Agency (Boletines Nos. 11.144-07 and 11.092-97). The debate is now at a first constitutional stage of the legislative process.

During their speech at the Commission, library representatives referred to the need to defend access to information as well as the importance of the right to be forgotten and the need to find a balance between this two principles. The President of the Commission recognized that the contributions to the process by library representatives would enrich the discussions.

IFLA encourages all of its members to get involved in such discussions, and welcomes questions on the subject.