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As the European Union has made progress on the process to adopt the “right to be forgotten” law, I just can’t help but wonder how come this can actually be achieved.

The “right to be forgotten” law

As a reminder, the “right to be forgotten” is a law that simply put, allow the deletion of your internet history. I said ” simply put” since, when it comes to actual life, there’s a lot of complication that can result from it. As an example, some German murderers of an actor has sued Wikipedia so as to get their names removed from the Wikipedia entry of that actor. Well, in this case, it’s finally a complicated situation since this all boils down to a “simple action” (rewriting the Wikipedia article), but when legal instruments comes in, it just becomes a labyrinth where it’s really hard to find the way out.

But if we take a closer look, let’s just consider all the things that the internet is archiving about us. Can you imagine how much data the internet collects about us, especially since social media has gone mainstream? Initially, it was only about e-mails that you sent on mailing-list: 20 years ago, most of the times, we used a genuine e-mail address (and with our actual names). Then came the forums: while we usually chose pseudonyms on forum platforms, chances are that we may have divulged some private information in between. Now, with the popularity of blogs and social media sites (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, …) : we are leaving a lot of traces behind us.

Have you ever tried to Google yourself?

I don’t know about you, but I have almost 20 accurate pages of my internet history displayed by ¬†Google when I google myself. While the traces I left has nothing I could be ashamed of, the actual amount of data that the internet keeps about me is just amazing.

How would it be actually implemented?

Now, let’s move back to the issue I want to point out in this article. Let’s say that the “right to be forgotten” law is widely adopted over the internet: how come one can actually implement it? If I go back to the Google query about myself, I can see that these refer to different sites all over the internet. Does it mean that each of those sites have to remove all the information related to me? I just can’t figure out how could that possibly be. Moreover, considering that there’s an “invisible web” that is a big part of the internet that hasn’t been indexed yet by search engines, I just can’t figure out how can every user track any trails of his internet wanderings and then request it to fall into the “right to be forgotten” case.

But even then, as with most spy movies that we all have seen, there’s always a copy of those information hidden (intentionally or not) somewhere. This means that if I ever posted something I’d be ashamed of on the internet, I’ll never find a “cancel” button that would magically erase everything out: the internet keep copies, and people also do.

So, while I can fully understand the reasons behind that “right to be forgotten” law, I just can’t figure out how can the internet “forget” about what you’ve done -especially when it has been indexed by search engines, and people may have some copies of it on their hard drives.

What’s your view on this?