We've all heard the stories about embarrassing images on Facebook being found by potential employers or, even worse, people being fired because of what they wrote online. This disclosure of personal data appears to have grown to become an everyday part of life and according to a recent European study, some people even consider it an obligation.
Of course, for teenagers and young adults in particular, tweeting about how awful your boss was today, or uploading photos of your friends sprawled across a bar stool is just a laugh. The majority don't think about how these actions influence how they are judged now, not least how they'll be judged in future. It's exactly this attitude that has encouraged the EU Commission to propose new draft known as “The Right To Be Forgotten”.
Last week an EU spokesman stated that the aim of the draft bill was to “help teenagers and young adults manage their online reputations better”. The spokesman went on to explain that this lack of awareness amongst young adults could cause problems for them later when applying for jobs, for example.
If it is adopted, this overhaul of the 1995 Data Protection Act will give people the right to request that their information be deleted from the search index as well as social media sites. What's more, if publishing companies such as Facebook or Google don't comply with this take-down request, then the firms could be faced with fines of up to 1% of their global revenue.
It seems to me that, giving young adults the option to request that content be removed doesn't really “help them manage their online reputations better”. It simply gives them an emergency escape route. What happened to prevention is better than cure? Surely an effort needs to be made to emphasise the importance of managing the personal information they disclose in the first place.
On the whole, the directive is said to be a step in the right direction in terms of ensuring general users have control of their information. However, the ins and outs of the new bill are still blurred. By this I mean, what is the reach of the “right to be forgotten”? Let's say negative information is published online about a company or individual professional, and this information happens to be realistic and true, is requesting that this information be removed not simply hiding the truth? Questions have also been asked in relation to back-ups of the information removed.
The new bill may take up to two years to be approved by the EU member states then ratified by the EU Parliament, in which time a lot of questions still have to be asked and the specifics of the bill clearly laid out.
Do you think users should be granted the “right to be forgotten?” Let us know your thoughts on the proposed new bill.