Remember that awesome pub-crawl you went on in first year uni, the one organised by your student social association, where you started on shooters, then learned how to play beer pong, the whole hilarious process captured on your mobile phones, got absolutely legless, and ended up dancing on the tables? Those were the days, right? Well the good news is, now you’re all grown up and considering applying for pre-selection in conservative politics, you can still revisit those good old days any time you want. The bad news is, so can everyone else. All they have to do is Google “beer pong,” and there you are, pitching ping-pong balls, belting back beers and head-bopping with the band.
So maybe it’s time to consign some of the more colorful moments of your good old days to the anonymity of posterity. But just how hard is that to do?
Ever heard of the Right to be Forgotten? If not, just punch it into Google, Bing, or any other internet search engine, like you would if you wanted to learn how to play beer pong for example, and all the data from the information highway that is the World Wide Web will instantly be at your fingertips.
In May 2014, after more than a decade of court proceedings in the European Court of Justice a Spanish man won his bid to enforce his Right to be Forgotten, forcing Google to remove links from its search results, that linked to an embarrassing newspaper article from the plaintiffs dim, dark, distant past. Essentially the court found that Google had an obligation to remove links to personal data that were, by the effluxion of time or otherwise, no longer relevant for publication.
Later in 2014, the Australian Law Reform Commission conducted an inquiry into Australia’s need for a right to be forgotten, but the Commission effectively concluded the right ran contrary to our principles of freedom of information. Currently, the closest we get in Australia to a right to be forgotten is found in Australian Privacy Principles, which compel certain entities in certain circumstances to ensure information kept about an individual is correct and, if it’s not, to make sure it’s duly corrected.
So far, none of that is likely to get that beer pong video consigned to the trash can. But the law in this area is developing, so there’s still hope for anonymity for all us former beer-pongers.
Natasha Murakami, Gold Coast Lawyer