Does Social Media Take Away Our Right to Be Forgotten?

Does Social Media Take Away Our Right to Be Forgotten?

There is a history podcast that I listen to mostly in my car. In addition to telling me little-known stories about famous rulers, the podcast also spins tales about lesser-known figures. Sometimes the details that are included astound me such as what the person ate, how he spent his free time and even the exact reasons for his death. (It seems there are a lot of historians and even forensic scientists who study past lives to figure out how people died.)

But occasionally, the history podcast will say something like "this person faded into obscurity," and I find myself surprised that it isn't said more often. I enjoy the level of details recorded and pieced together on ordinary citizens: Government records, letters, journals and newspapers all hold clues to that person's life.

Of course, today, we have social media and blogs to provide intricate details of our daily lives to whomever wants to read them. But what if you want your details erased? What if you want to be the person who fades into obscurity? Is that possible today?

faded flower

Image: James Jordan via Flickr

It doesn't look likely in the United States, but it does look like a possibility for citizens in the European Union, where the right to privacy is under stricter protection. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice ordered links leading to articles on the foreclosure and auction of a Spanish man's home be stricken from Google's search engine.

I am really intrigued by this idea, which is often referred to as the right to be forgotten. Shouldn't we have more control over our personal data, including its deletion? Of course, I'm not referring to the data used in background checks or run-ins with the law, but more along the lines of the content we put online once, but wished we hadn't.

What links would you want to see stricken from a search result connected to your name?  Additionally, I'd like to know what you think -- what personal data would you want to have access to and what should remain public?

Related Posts

Why I Lose Sleep When I Think About U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

On a good day the majority of the American public devotes around 30 seconds to our country's 11-year war in Afghanistan. Concern over drone attacks on civilian population, veterans' PTSD, and the treatment of enemy combatants have been replaced in headlines with royal babies, government gridlock, and whether or not Hilary will run for president in three years. (She will).   Read more >

In Search of African American Historical Narratives

I know that my great-grandmother was ten years-old when Abraham Lincoln ended legalized slavery. What I don’t know is what she experienced and witnessed between 1875 and her passing in the 1960s. I can read about Jim Crow laws and segregation. I have experience the echoes of it. The ancestors lived in maelstrom of separate and unequal. History doesn’t stop at achievements, political whims or attempts at erasure of difficult topics.   Read more >

Justice Thomas' Wife Asks Anita Hill for an Apology; She Should Ask Her Husband

In an October 9 column for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explained that historically, it's been very hard to be the wife of a Supreme Court justice. According to Lithwick, earlier generations of women, subjected to the forced anonymity traditionally expected of Justices' spouses, have been driven to drink, illness and despair. Some feel that explains why the wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas felt compelled to leave a voicemail message on the office telephone of Anita Hill, the law professor who accused him of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearing. According to the New York Times, who said Hill played the recording for them, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas said that through prayer, Hill might be led to offer an explanation and apology "for what you did with my husband."   Read more >


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.