The Internet Data We Would Like the Right to Forget

Rebecca Greenfield
The Internet Data We Would Like the Right to Forget

While Europe moves ahead with its right to be forgotten, as seasoned Internet stalkers, we've gone through and ranked the best and easiest places anyone can find personal data on the Internet. If all goes as planned, Europe will grant its Web-surfers the right to "withdraw their consent to the processing of the personal data they have given out themselves," in the words of European Commission vice president and EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding at a conference earlier this week, as The Atlantic's John Hendel reports. Below, we demonstrate where and why that might come in handy, in order of scariness. 

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1. Our Google Selves

Google's the center of our Internet lives. A search will bring up all the personal data we've given out, that we haven't explicitly told a site not to make Googleable. But beyond things that pop up via a Google search, the information we have given via our Google+ profiles, Gmails, YouTube accounts, or myriad other Internet services Google owns, is spread across all of Google's platforms, making it easy to locate private details. Just last week Google integrated Google+ profiles into search. Google+ profiles not only contain all the stuff users add to it when they sign up, but also includes Gmail data -- it's all integrated. And these days, with Google crawling around our e-mail, who knows what it plans on doing with that stuff. 

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2. Our Facebook Selves

Though Google integrates one's information across the most platforms, Facebook tricks us into divulging more information and sharing it with a lot of different parties. With more years and legitimacy under its belt, Facebook's profiles have more meat to them. An entire Timeline's worth, in fact. And though one can limit that information from spreading outside of the social network -- Facebook has an option that makes it impossible to find a profile via Google -- the data is all up on Facebook. Also, any good Internet stalker knows how to find some Facebook information via adept Googling skills.

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Beyond the information Facebook gets from us -- photos, statuses, birthdates, phone numbers -- it has quite the integrated sharing ecosystem. All those Zynga and Washington Post and Spotify apps that we let onto our profiles get that information, too. We have to give those companies permission, of course, but we can't use the app without doing it. It's hard not to. 

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3. Our Amazon Selves

This doesn't just refer to one site, but any e-commerce site that requires both profiles and credit card information. Amazon knows our names. It knows our shopping habits. It knows our billing information. And, if we are the reviewing type, it knows our tastes. As for that reviewing part, let's just throw our Yelp selves into this boat, too. 

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4. Our Twitter Selves

Twitter doesn't ask much of its users. It doesn't require a real name, in fact many of the most famous Twitter feeds hide behind faux identities. It also has a very poor search function, making it hard to locate statements. And, as it didn't renew its contract with Google, tweets aren't Googleable. Or at least, hard to find. A quick Google search will bring up a Twitter profile, but there's really not much personal information on there. Even Twitter bios (generally) don't have too much revealing information.