In the US, Google operates as a free agent in a free market. It has free reign over nearly anything anyone puts on the web. Once that information has been cached into the system, it’s as good as theirs. Even when you choose to remove it from your website, it will continue to show up in search until Google has reindexed for relevancy purposes—often three to seven days time. Even then, that information is stored in their database.
Given this, censoring information will likely only censor it from the public and from international governments. In the instance of the U.S., it will probably not change the U.S government’s ability to access that information.
So if you’re worried about serial killers finding your address, or public embarrassment over an ill-begotten photo, that’s one thing. It may even protect against marketers collecting your information, like punching the ‘do not call’ option on telemarketers.
But for those who were part of the huge outcry over American companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple giving customer information to the U.S. government? It’s unlikely to do much about that.
And while Google and compatriots went under fire for divulging consumer information to the government, there’s a good chance that they don’t have much of a choice.
While most U.S. citizens are probably unaware of it, the U.S. government has been tracking their every move for years. Programs like Predator, Carnivore/DCS1000, Magic Lantern keylogger, TALON database, Guardian Database, PRISM, President’s Surveillance Program, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, NarusInsight –just to name a few- have been doing a good job of that.
It just turns out that Google, Facebook, and the like, are a much less expensive and more effective way to do the same thing.
By contrast, the EU has had The Data Protection Directive (officially Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data) since 1995, which regulates the processing of personal data within the European Union.
So under what circumstances does that directive actually protect EU citizens? Well, any company or organization processing data in the EU is required to follow data protection regulation. That means that any online business trading with EU citizens would process some personal data and therefore have to comply with the EU data protection rules.
The only conditions under which personal data may be processed are when transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality are met.
And even despite this, the truth remains that we may have only scratched the surface on what is really happening behind the virtual curtain. Any information put out on the web faces the possibility of being used improperly.
So here’s a word to the wise: If you have something you’d prefer people didn’t know, don’t put it up on the web.