Time for a Right to be Remembered?

cover image – nongpimmy/istockphoto

At the beginning of the year I was heavily involved in developing a new Data Privacy Module for the software company I am part of.

This saw me getting fully involved in understanding the requirements of the GDPR and ensuring that what we provided to our clients helped them meet the new regulations.

Everyone was so focussed on “the right to be forgotten” that it got me thinking – Is it time for a “right to be remembered?”

As of the first quarter of 2018, Facebook had 2.19 billion active users. *[link]

Often now on the news, when a story breaks, Facebook pictures are used and accounts can be viewed to piece together a picture of “the digital self”.

As of April 2018, the instant messaging app WhatsApp, reportedly had 1.2 billion monthly active users. *[link]

Currently, as at the end of the first quart 2018, Twitter had some 336 million active users. *[link]

As we move around the digiverse we leave a digital and social footprint behind us. These can range from wish lists, posts we like, comments we make, videos we upload, connections we make and many more.

Many people find their identity on social media – many people find their voice. The internet has given everyone a voice, but big tech has the power to silence and completely erase that identity at will. What are the guidelines for this removal – is it always a clear cut decision to remove someone’s digital persona?

In some instances it is more obvious – a mass shooting at a school, terrorist instances, extremist views – it is likely that big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter will forever erase these profiles – and in many instances this will happen really fast. But what if it isn’t so clear cut – what if one misplaced comment leads to the deletion of your digital persona? What if you are a fifteen year old that makes a poor taste YouTube video? The video you wanted to go viral could do so – but for the wrong reasons. What then – should your YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other presences be removed – eventually you will be forgotten.

johavel/istockphotopeople cloud computing storage

When you apply for a job you are often required to provide references. When you apply for a loan or a mortgage then credit checks will be run against you. But what if someone was to check if part of your persona had been removed in the digiverse. Does it look bad if you were around one day and gone the next, either in full or partially? What if an organisation could search for posts or tweets that were taken down – they were around long enough to be captured by someone, somewhere… Could we start to see ourselves getting a “rating” of our digital persona?

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security is already grabbing social media information from millions of people. *[link]

What if going through the border you were flagged because your Twitter account was taken down, or your YouTube account was suspended for a period of time?

In the EU the right to be forgotten is relatively new – there will undoubtedly be many court cases to come over the years – it could well be the new “PPI claim”. But with the power of big tech to erase us digitally will it only be a matter of time before we see the introduction of “a right to be remembered?”

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