IT lawyers say right to be forgotten ‘is not an absolute right’

The Malta IT Law Association (MITLA) expressed deep concern about recent reports that private individuals have successfully requested that court cases decided against them be deleted from online databases without having in place clear rules as to how the right to be forgotten is being exercised.

Last week, The Shift News reported how one of two law students given a warrant despite having a criminal record had been removed from the government’s justice services web site.

Justice minister Owen Bonnici insisted that the removal of judgements from the online court website did not affect official records and made reference to the right to be forgotten. But MITLA said the removal of personal data from an online service administered by Government and which contains public records, especially court judgments, “cannot be simply compared to delisting from a search engine.”

The right to be forgotten, MITLA said,  “is not an absolute right but has to take into consideration various factors, included but not limited to whether public interest discussions come into play but also against whom the request is made and the nature and purpose and importance of the personal data being erased.”

The association added that it is concerned about the applicability of the right to be forgotten with respect to online judgments on the basis of four legal principles; transparency, legitimacy, justifiability, proportionality and necessity.

Calling for a national discussion on introducing laws on the rehabilitation of offenders as well as its impact on the right to be forgotten, MITLA said “It is only through a proper balancing between the right to be forgotten and the right relating to public interest that limiting access to the online court database for criminal offences can be legally reconciled.


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