By Anna Gale, Fueled

There have always been concerns about how users can protect themselves online, even before the Internet became as prevalent in people’s lives as it is now. Every now and then, we get a reminder that the Internet can truly be a dangerous place.

In the ’90s, a big issue was keeping children safe and the early 2000s had people fearing the arrival of Y2K and the growing issue of identity theft. People were literally waking up to terrible credit scores and lists of lavish purchases they’d never made. Now in the mid-teens of the 2000’s, online identity theft is at the highest its ever been due to the amount of personal information we choose to make available about us online. More importantly, the things we put out on the Internet have the ability to affect things like potential jobs, school admissions, and how we’re viewed by the public in general. Because of laws regarding publicly available information, Internet policing, and censorship have steadily become more of a hot button issue, legislation in Europe is taking a stand for its citizens. We’re not sure if this is the best course of action here at Fueled, but it remains to be seen the effects this new policy will have.

The “Right to be Forgotten” will allow European Internet users the ability to request that certain links leading to sensitive information about themselves be removed from Google search results. Although currently only available in Europe, the tool is a complex system in which Google analyzes each case individually for validity while attempting to not encroach upon public domain and the right to information. It’s still a work in progress but there are some serious issues that have to be addressed before we see this policy being implemented internationally.

In recent years, it has become common practice for schools and employers to search the Internet for information on their applicants. There have been many horror stories about prospective students not being accepted to their schools of choice or people being passed over for a job because of perfectly reasonable things that may or may not have been taken out of context online. For example, if you’re a recent grad applying for a design fellowship with your dream firm, that piece you wrote for your school news publication about your controversial views about the current state of government can easily be found by the hiring manager. The problem here is that your political views don’t directly influence the type of work you do and thus shouldn’t be taken into consideration when reviewing a job application, but this may give the hiring manager the wrong impression of you.

On the other hand, that same article written by someone running for a political office may be excluded from campaign material because that candidate may no longer have those feelings. Voters may be interested in that article for a number of reasons though, from showing inconsistencies to proving growth within a certain area of policy, and they will have no problem finding it.

There’s a thin line being tread when it comes to personal history and the omission of seemingly important facts about an individual. It’s also worth noting that as it stands on Google’s side, they’re completely forthcoming that there have been omitted results removed by request on their results page. Keep in mind that removing results links from Google does not remove the actual information from the Internet.

It’s too early to say whether this policy will have the intended results, but it may be coming to North America sooner rather than later.

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