Digital Footprint and Online Privacy: Do we need Rights to be Forgotten?

Living in the digital age has many perks, but every time we go online we leave a trail – is now the time we ask for the right to be forgotten?

Every time we go online we build. We build our knowledge and awareness by visiting websites, our online presences by posting and liking on social media, and we build our digital footprints through cookies.

Living in the digital age has allowed many people to reap the benefits of having an online presence, such as setting up social media profiles to stay in touch with friends, creating an email address to apply for jobs or even having an account for online shopping. With our digital footprint growing daily, more individuals find it challenging to manage their online identity and fully understand how sharing or liking a post can affect their future career or relationship with a loved one. This raises concerns about the level of control we have over our online persona.

New research

In the final months of 2021, Kaspersky carried out research across 11 European countries surveying over 8,500 people with a goal of identifying internet users’ awareness and attitudes to their online privacy. We wanted to uncover the level of understanding both of what and how much control people have over what they post online, and to what extent they consider changing previous social media activity. Overall, we wanted to find out if we need or should have the right to be forgotten, and we did this by grouping our research under three headings.

What’s not to Like measures people’s understanding of the potential positive as well as negative impact of their online activity, in particular the posting of polarising issues. It also establishes to what extent different demographics consider posting about certain topics as affecting their opinion of others and themselves. Not Top for the Job measures the levels of awareness regarding the impact of an individual’s digital footprint on their career prospects. It also shows what level of control individuals feel they have over their data. Finally, Licence to Will examines the levels of discomfort and preparation people have gone through when it comes to adding personal login details to wills, as well as what happens to their data after they die.

Our research also looks at how perceptions around online privacy differ based on country and generation. For example, statistics show us that Gen Z is more reckless when it comes to their online activity, as many express regret and admit they deleted or wish to delete a past online post. The results also show a prevalent issue across the nations as most respondents are unaware or uncertain of the control they have over their digital presence or what they could do if they really wanted to manage their online persona effectively.

The data we gleaned and compiled goes far deeper and more granular than this, but what is clear is that there is a knowledge and awareness gap, especially among younger people.

Is there a right to be forgotten?

Around the world, most countries believe in some form of a fundamental right to privacy. But is there also a right to be forgotten? The digital space is opaque and the disparity between what many people think they know and what they actually know is vast. It is our mission to build a safer digital world, and so we will continue to improve the understanding that people have over the space in which they are operating in through our toolkits and educational content.

We will be announcing the findings of this landmark study in the middle of January 2022. Stay tuned!