60-Second Tech

The Internet Gets Amnesia—in Europe at Least

A European Union court ruling endorses the right to be forgotten online. The U.S. is less forgiving. Larry Greenemeier reports


Remember Friendster and MySpace? Those social media sites ushered in the age of oversharing more than a decade ago. And stuff you may have posted on those sites could still be there. These zombie web pages can haunt people who’d rather have reputation-crushing online photos, video and documents forgotten.
Here in the U.S., most past cyber transgressions still roam freely across the Web. Only California allows minors, crime victims and other special cases to request the takedown of content damaging or dangerous to them.
But a European Union court recently ruled that people do have the right to have sensitive information about themselves deleted from Google search results. It was a reversal of the court’s earlier stance. And it means certain sites may be forced to delete what they called “irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its results when someone requests it.
Google is understandably unhappy. The company fears that requests for search result deletions from E.U. dwellers will translate into lost ad revenue.
None of these efforts can ever fully erase a person’s online past given how much sharing goes on. So think twice before posting your next bong hit selfie. Unless maybe you’re Seth Rogen. 
—Larry Greenemeier
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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