Google Yourself - Seashell - Holly Hayman - 12.04.13

The internet really is the biggest diary in the world.

Almost everything you’ve ever created – whether that’s a status update, a comment, a witty tweet, a snarky message, a funny picture or a superbly well written and researched blog post – could be saved indefinitely worldwide.

But is this global scrapbook really the way to go? Or should people have the right to forget and move on?

Google for Good, not for Evil

With people increasingly afraid of where their personal information ends up, the EU is pressing for more legal restraints on what personal information websites can store. They’re calling this – a conglomeration of smaller laws – “the Right to be Forgotten”. The UK (always being a bit of a firecracker) has opted out pending further negotiations as to whether companies like Facebook should delete all personal data if requested.

This law is very much in the public interest. Last week saw England’s first “Youth Police Commissioner” – 17 year old Paris Brown – step down after a grand total of a week at the salaried position with Kent Police. The reason? She’d used Twitter as a personal diary of her earlier teens. The media got hold of this old, cached feed and Paris was proved a racist, homophobic, drug taking and generally quite unpleasant child:

“Been drinking since half 1 and riding baby walkers down the hall at work oh my god i have the best job ever haha!!”

“I really wanna make some hash brownies.”

“Everyone on Made In Chelsea looks like a ******* fag”

And a personal favourite from the then under 16 year old:
“Worst part about being single is coming home from a party/night out horny as **** and having to sleep alone”.

The offending account has since been ‘properly’ deleted, but the comments are still available on many websites and newspapers across the UK. There’s nothing special about a teenager acting with disregard for themselves or their families, but this shows how serious it can be in the modern age where every action is recorded.

Of course there are two sides to every story: the “Right to be Forgotten” would have meant Paris kept the job – and saved face.

So what would this mean for businesses?

You won’t be able to check up on employees as much, but you’ll also have more power over your brand’s presence online. This includes false profiles, ex-employee slander, libel, incorrect statements/quotes/facts and more. When it comes to your traffic Google will not be able to crawl this data either; it could be a big benefit if you’ve been victim of underhand competition creating false profiles and comments.

And regular Joe?

If the “Right to be Forgotten” does get accepted it means you might not be held accountable for those slightly anarchic, libellous or murderous comments during rants about politics/sports/TV. “Might” because the police have been using Twitter, Facebook and other social media as evidence in criminal and civil cases for a couple of years now, so they may still be able to access this information. The big thing to keep in mind is that it’ll be irreversible: once your data’s gone, it’s gone. There is no way of repealing heat of the moment profile deletions when trying to cleanse of an evil ex.

What do you think would happen to the rest of Europe’s online lives when this is accepted? What’re your predictions on the UK?

Image Source: Stairhopper on Flickr

Google Yourself: The Right To Be Forgotten (Virtually) by