The right to re-write your past

thumbnail hanaHana Mahmood
Comment Editor



In a world where one’s online presence is viewed as a necessity, the UK Government is making a bold statement to ensure our safety and security online. This summer will see new legislation that will make it incumbent upon global corporations such as Google and Facebook to delete personal data when requested by its users.


Our culture of transparent living and information overload sees children growing up without the need to ask their friends what they have been up to over the weekend. Instead, “who, what, where and when?” are all answered in real time via social media. Although the decision to forfeit one’s privacy in this way is consensual, controversy arises when we try to address who in fact owns our data once it has surfaced online.


While the appeal of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram is largely based upon creativity and the right to freedom of expression, the Data Protection Bill is the government’s attempt to re-assign ownership over these very expressions. We will be given the new right to request the deletion of social media posts that were made prior to the age of 18 years. Thus, our pasts do not have to pre-determine our futures if we choose otherwise. Future employers, colleagues, and friends will no longer be able to see every detail of our online histories.

The objectives of the bill are to:

  • give consumers the right to request what information is being kept
  • allow users to request the deletion of personal data
  • expand the current definition of ‘personal data’ so that it also encompasses data which is stored when a person is surfing the web

This is a promising start, especially when according to the UK government less than 80% of the population believes they do not have complete control over their data on the internet. We need to know what information is being stored, and by who.


Currently, most websites require you to untick pre-selected boxes to prevent your personal information from being used for marketing and research purposes. The new laws will bring an end to this implied consent. Instead, it will be obligatory for your explicit permission to be obtained before the unsolicited communications ensue.

What’s more, accountability has found its way to the web. Companies will now be deterred by the criminalisation of identifying someone from anonymised data. They will be held to account with fines of up to £17 million for the most serious breaches of privacy.

Post-Brexit Britain
The new legislation aims to reinforce the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations which require adequate security before any personal information online can be shared with a third party. The bill is one of the first major public steps towards preparing for a post-Brexit Britain. Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital, said that bill is “one of the most robust, yet dynamic, sets of data laws in the world.” At the same time, the proposals – which are based upon the Labour manifesto and are in line with European regulations – aim to nurture the free flow of information between Britain and the EU following Brexit.

Laws fit for the future

Essentially, the new bill does not in any way mean that we are moving away from online living. Instead, what we can hope to see are new standards concerning privacy and ownership. So long as our online existences are deemed inevitable, we must demand confidence in the websites that know the who’s, what’s, where’s and when’s of our lives.




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