The Right to Be Forgotten: Europe Proposes New Online-Privacy Laws

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Thierry Roge / Reuters

European Commissioner Viviane Reding

After two years of investigation and discussion on the subject, the European Commission has proposed a new set of online-privacy rules that would allow users to demand that information about them be deleted by companies such as Facebook and Google, unless said sites have legitimate reasons to hold onto the information.

Central to the newly proposed rules is what has become known as the “right to be forgotten,” which would give users the ability to pull all their personal data from the Internet. The proposed rules would also force companies to tell users about data breaches within a certain time period or face financial censure, reports Reuters. The guidelines call for informing users when their data will be collected, how it’ll be collected and for how long it’ll be stored as well.

(MORE: Facebook Changing International Privacy Policies Following E.U. Review)

European Commissioner Viviane Reding revealed some details of the proposed law at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, with a spokesperson later expanding on the reasoning behind the right to be forgotten: “These rules are particularly aimed at young people as they are not always as aware as they could be about the consequence of putting photos and other information on social-network websites, or about the various privacy settings available,” the BBC was told. The concern is that such personal material being available online could pose challenges later in life as people look for employment.

The new law would also call for control over the level of information that would be available for deletion. Medical and legal records would remain unaffected and untouchable, for example, and bloggers writing about their personal lives and those of their friends would also be freed of any obligation to remove such content. Companies that refuse to do so, however, would potentially face stiff fines of up to 2% of their global revenue for failing to comply.

If the new rules are approved by the European Union member states and European Parliament, they will come into effect at the end of next year.

MORE: Stronger Online Privacy Regulation Comes with Tradeoffs

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.