The Ghost of Posts Past

Individual privacy has once again become the topic of headlines over the past month as Google has made initial efforts to comply with the EU’s infamous “right to be forgotten” legislation. Google has introduced a form that EU citizens can complete requesting that certain links be omitted from the results when their name is searched online – a form that has already been submitted in the tens of thousands since its introduction at the end of last month.

As the legislation makes this first tangible impact on the US, it’s shining an uncomfortable spotlight on how much of our online activity is not only monitored but also stored and analyzed. In a society with an increasingly short attention span and a proclivity towards over sharing, the idea that our online activity might be permanently recorded is downright alarming. We publish our every thought and movement online with little thought to the long-term consequences, primarily because there’s no established precedent. Social media has transformed the way we communicate so completely and so rapidly that it’s hard to predict its full impact down the line. Especially for my generation, who first joined social media in that emotionally unstable and cringe-worthy time that was our teenage years, our first few years online were spent sharing content that was questionable at best and mortifying at worse. I can only image the political smear campaigns that will run in 2036:

 “In 2003, Senator Adams wrote on his MySpace page that ‘the sky outside is black like my soul, no one truly understands my pain, nothing makes life worth living </3.’ …Is this the kind of man you want representing your interests in congress?”

In the 21st century, there is no resource more valuable, or more potentially destructive, than information. Increasing amounts of data on our lives, habits, and activity are being captured, and it’s all for sale to the highest bidder. Only in the last few years, as legislation like “the right to be forgotten” is constructed and crises like the NSA spying scandal have seized global headlines, has the average citizen come to realize the dangers in over-sharing online, and how powerless they are to reverse it.

It will be interesting to see whether the US follows the EU’s lead in actively taking steps to protect the individual’s right to privacy in the coming years. In the meantime, however, think twice before you share, you never know what might come back to haunt you.

Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic at

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