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Google Eyes

google chromeWhen it comes to privacy, it seems that you can hide but you cannot run. As reported by Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times (5/27/14), sensitive personal data has always been available; it’s just that "the Internet has … made it much, much easier to find." Before Google, anyone could dig up dirt by visiting a "newspaper’s morgue to flip through the physical archives," for example. Today, because search engines streamline that process, some are pushing to make such searches harder.

Mario Casteja, a Spanish lawyer, is at the center of that pushing having "spurred the European Union’s controversial ‘right to be forgotten‘ ruling this month." Mario "was livid that a Google search for his name brought up a newspaper article from more than a decade ago about his debts … The European court mandated a technological solution from Google. But some technology experts say what’s really needed is a cultural movement to create new standards of online etiquette and responsibility."

One problem is that while Google can erase links, it can’t do anything about information as originally published. It’s also likely that "a new cottage industry of search engines to scour hidden corners of the web would spring up in response." Avoiding social media doesn’t solve the problem either, because it "just means that when someone posts information" about an individual, that person won’t know about it. "We often conflate privacy through obscurity with inaccessibility, control or security," says Coye Cheshire of the University of California, whose proposed solution is "regular online information checkups, similar to credit checks."