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?

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