Erasing Your Revenge Porn Past

Yes, I’ve succumbed to the lowest common denominator to best grab your attention. How shameful to stoop so low, when I’ve been schooled to present an accurate reflection of the subject matter in question. Call me the clickbaiter. There are, I hasten to add, mitigating circumstances. Namely, generating your interest in the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, but hang on there, it is important. You can read more here.

Developed by various parts of the European Union (EU), the regulation intends to strengthen data protection for those inside the European community. It comes into play from the 25th May 2018 and also incorporates the transfer of data outside the EU. It should be on any discerning corporate reputation specialist’s radar. Without getting into the regulatory minutiae, this is essentially about addressing the perceived imbalance in terms of data control, between the general public and big business; whereas it’s perceived that the latter has too much control, so it’s only right that citizens enjoy more power over their own personal data and thus the new, all-governing regulation – hurrah.

Now, it’s a broad piece of governance, but there’s some interesting aspects in there, including a soundbite to thrill the ears of any sci-fi aficionado – get this, the ‘Right to Erasure’ – it’s made for a lyric, but I digress. Individuals can require the “controller” – say, Google – to erase data. It’s not altogether new; it has been with us for a few years; there was a landmark case in 2014, when the European Court of Justice ruled against the Big G, in the case of Mario Gonzalez, who unfortunately requested that a link to a Spanish paper about an auction for his foreclosed home for a debt that he subsequently paid, be removed. He won, but his misfortune lies in the fact that his case was first and so he has very little chance of being forgotten for the next few years.

Now, this gets more interesting I feel, in light of the fact that any request to erase is hindered by the subjectivity of the notion of ‘public interest’. For instance, the individual who contracted HIV a decade ago would claim that such a story has very little in the way of public interest and I would have sympathy with this view. However, the story would have far more interest for the individual’s health insurer. So, who’s to make these big decisions about our personal histories and playing the arbiter in terms of public interest? Yes, you’ve got it - the so-called data controllers – unelected organisations will have court-like influence to change the record, or not, without the fundamental checks on their own power. Grave new world, anyone? As always, comments welcome.