INTERNET PRIVACY: AS AN INDIVIDUAL, SHOULD YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE DELETED FROM THE INTERNET?

By Mark Somers, Technical Director at 4most Europe (www.4-most.co.uk)

It’s a story that has dominated the national newspapers since the recent story of the internet privacy ruling against Google broke this month.  But it has certainly sparked a great deal of debate and opinion amongst the big search engines, internet security and mobile industries to name a few. The question however, still remain: should a person have the right to be forgotten or ‘deleted’ from internet history if they so wish?  Our Technical Director Mark Somers says yes, and this is why…

Mark Somers

Mark Somers

“Privacy for the individual is important for society and for the effective operation of an open free-market economy. Too often it is portrayed as a concern only for security wonks and those who have something to hide.  In reality there are at least 2 important reasons for all consumers to demand legal protection to help redress the balance of power between the individual and large corporations:

  • Increasingly the concepts of 100% data security and using online data services have been demonstrated to be incompatible (eBay security breach this week amongst many others) - vast stores of valuable personal data will be hacked, and try as they might large corporations cannot prevent it entirely. As a consumer therefore, given these organisations can’t guarantee to secure your data it is right and proper that you should be able to make the risk assessment as to whether they store it at all.
  • If consumers do not have control of the information they share with companies competing for their business it means the company that buys or controls the data has a devastating competitive advantage and the free market is distorted. The value associated with an established monopoly is why many web-companies companies are happy to provide “free” e-services. These services are increasingly becoming an indispensable part of everyday life (mobile sat nav, web mail, social networks etc.) – it is not good enough for providers to say give your data to us to do what we like or if you don’t agree then don’t use our service - these services are becoming essential and we can’t opt out.

We need legislation that enshrines the obligation on providers to enable users to use “free” services whether they choose to share (i.e. for companies to keep a record of) their data or not. This should be a fundamental consumer right, equivalent to the ability to get a refund on faulty goods – it isn’t just about the right to be forgotten, it is about the right to choose not even to be remembered.”

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