There’s still a few days left of National Cyber Security Awareness Month so we figured timing couldn’t be better for another piece on the state of online data privacy today and specifically, on laws surrounding search engines.
The European Court of Justice recently ruled that Google is required to remove links from search that are deemed no longer relevant or inaccurate. This ruling, also known as “the right to be forgotten” means that monitoring content on the web falls on Google’s shoulders instead of on the sites that published these types of content.
There was—and still is—significant commentary both for and against this ruling amongst industry experts. So naturally, we were curious to see if we could find out what regular search users think of this new law.
Using SurveyMonkey Audience—a powerful online tool that targets specific demographics—we surveyed nearly 300 Americans to get their opinions. Should search engines be legally required to remove information that is “outdated and irrelevant”? How do people feel exactly about access to their personal data in exchange for other services?
Here’s what we learned.
A significant majority at 61% were in favor of a legal requirement, while only 13% thought they shouldn’t. The remainder was unsure.
Digging deeper into this, nearly 75% of respondents said they’d remove their own name from search if that option was made available. Although it’s an interesting commentary on how people view their privacy levels on the internet, what they might not understand is that removing oneself from search doesn’t just hide the embarrassing things that may have ended up in Google’s vast index.
Removing yourself means having potentially career-making opportunities removed as well, since LinkedIn profiles won’t show up any longer. In addition, it means any awards won, recognitions, and mentions or articles published will no longer be visible in search. A purge from the Internet would be a complete and thorough purge.
Do users’ behaviors match their feelings about online privacy?
In short? No. User behavior doesn’t seem to align with these concerns about privacy. We asked how much users pay attention to terms and conditions when signing up for an online service.
While 29% said they never read them, 62% said they quickly skim them. Only 2% said they show them to a qualified legal professional. Terms and conditions are usually overly-detailed about what will happen with private data, and users that are concerned about their personal data should be doing a lot more than just skimming them.
Perhaps even more revealing, we asked if respondents would ever consider allowing access to personal data in exchange for the free use of an internet product.
70% said they wouldn’t allow access to their personal data in exchange for a free Internet product. However, when we asked if respondents used some selected free internet services that retain personal data, there were a lot more users admitting their use than those who answered “No way!” to sharing personal data in exchange for a free service (8%).
The majority of survey respondents say they are Gmail customers at nearly 70%, which while it is a free email service, does mean that Google has access to a significant amount of personal data. People may trust that Google will never use their data in a way that might harm them; however, using Gmail does mean that they’re giving up personal data regardless.
Those who were truly concerned about the privacy of their personal data would install a mail server in their home and never use a cloud-based email service. What are the chances of that happening? Well, that might be another survey.
So what do you think? Should search engines be “required to forget?” Would you want to be purged from the Internet? Let us know in the Comments section below. And once again, Happy National Cyber Security Awareness Month!