Most of us have some sort of digital footprint online now, obviously the size of this varies between individuals. The person who blogs, logs their every move on social media and takes pictures wherever they go will obviously have much more of a presence than the occasional web user however nearly everyone has some sort of personal information stored online.
However in some places you’ll find it much harder to find through the search engines if you’re looking for personal information. Europe has actually become home to a certain amount of censorship of search engine results due to the effect of the ‘right to be forgotten’ rules which were passed in 2014. This EU legislation states that companies like Google have a legal obligation to remove personal information about individuals from their search indices. Their are some caveats – the exclusions don’t apply to information which is in the public interest and data which is ‘inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive.’
In practical terms it means that Google and indeed all search engines, have to remove links to pages for example in news and current affair stories if an individual requests it. Of course this becomes very difficult for search engines, controlling access and tailoring results based on different locations. In fact it became a little confusing that search listings were deleted in the European Union countries and still existed in other countries. So if someone from Europe invested in a fast USA proxy or VPN then they could view the results by using the US version of Google without any problems.
Such are the problems of the internet, you can pass legislation and laws in one country and watch as they are completely ignored or even contradicted in another country. Google has decided on a pragmatic approach and will now remove all results in line with the European guidelines although presumably these excluded results can be accessed on request in other countries.
Such administrative issues are nothing compared to the more sinister moves by different countries across the world. Many governments are trying to create their own versions of the internet, following on the heavy restrictions in force in China – places like Brazil, Turkey and Russia are trying to create their own barriers. Fortunately no one has yet found a way to make these blocks complete and investing in the best VPN software you can afford will almost certainly bypass any of these restrictions including the technologically advanced Great Firewall of China.
We can see quite clearly though that without a global vision and central governance the internet is going to become increasingly fractured and localized.