IFLA Statement on the Right to be Forgotten

(25 February 2016) The “right to be forgotten” refers to an individual’s ability to request that a search engine (or other data provider) remove links to information about himself or herself from search results. This has also been referred to as the “right to delist,” the “right to obscurity,” the “right to erasure” or the “right to oblivion.” In the media, the terms may be used interchangeably or be differentiated based on legal scope. In this document, the “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) is used as a general term for these concepts and their application.

Libraries and librarianship preserve and provide access to information. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) sees information on the public internet as published information that may have value for the public or for professional researchers and so should, in general, not be intentionally hidden, removed or destroyed. IFLA has called for the preservation of personally identifiable information in historical records. While the intent of RTBF 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.

This detailed statement with its implications for librarians and researchers is here.