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How privacy needs can change over time

Everyday, we share information online and most of us seem happy to do so. Over time, our privacy preferences may change.

While sharing in the moment, we often cannot imagine how and whether sharing can later come to haunt us. In addition, information stored online can be taken out of context. While the limits of human memory mean that information we share in the real world may be forgotten, online data storage does not allow us to forget our shared information.

The right to be forgotten

A ruling from the European Union’s highest court allows European citizens to request search engines to take down links to personal information that they feel link to outdated or irrelevant information about themselves. Search engines must comply if the information is deemed to be ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant’. This recent step is important in efforts to protect individual privacy rights.

As a result, Google for example will aim to block search results across all of its domains when a search takes place within Europe, in an extension of how it implements the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling.

An example reported in a Google Transparency Report:

An individual who was convicted of a serious crime in the last five years but whose conviction was quashed on appeal asked us to remove an article about the incident. We removed the page from search results for the individual’s name.

  • Do you agree with Google’s decision?
  • Where would you draw the line?
  • What needs to be removed from search engine results?
  • Should we also be able to request the original material is removed by the publisher?

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This article is from the free online course:

Cyber Security: Safety at Home, Online, in Life

Newcastle University

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