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A recent opinion piece in the Financial Times by a former US counter-terrorism spook, gave me pause for thought as I prepared to set up a Google hangout between various family members.
In essence, according to Richard Falkenrath, there are moves by the European Commission to include a 'right to forget' clause as it updates its Privacy Law and gets to grips with the globalisation of personal data and the impact of the internet.
The Right to Forget would enforce organisations such as social media and e-commerce giants to erase all personal data held regarding an individual should that individual ask them to do so at any time during or after the sign-up or registration process.
Sounds simple enough. However, reading further, it is evident that by simply agreeing to the likes of Google linking your data with all of its different applications and services, you are opening yourself up to a global tracking system like nothing ever seen before. For example, images are not only tagged, but provide data of where, when and on what device they were taken and can even use face recognition technology to match images with others taken of the same person.
From a counter-terrorism perspective, this may be mannah from heaven. From the point of view of the everyday passenger on the Clapham rapid transport system using their smartphone to take a photo of their mates as they travel across the Common, the implications are far more sinister.
Without doubt, the internet, e-commerce and cloud computing is transforming the way we communicate with service providers and each other. However, in signing-up for this 'freedom' we are also selling our souls to whomever wants to make money out of our data.
While the 'Right to Forget' clause may ultimately enforce Facebook, Google and the rest to delete our personal data, the fight over whether it includes meta data (the really useful stuff about times, locations, links, etc) is likely to require a long and bitter battle.
In the meantime, as you race to sign-up for a multi-video chat app that links to your photographs and allows you to share your latest birthday card design during the conversation, be careful what you wish for.
Published 22nd February, 2012