Can you erase your past from the internet?

They say once you post it online it's there forever, but according to a European Union law, maybe not.

The 'right to be forgotten' is a law that allows for people to appeal for personal information to be hidden from public searches. It is currently in practice in the EU and, since 2006, Argentina.

Current New Zealand law states personal information can be held as long as is necessary, but should we have a law that allows people to erase their online past?

Gorilla CEO Paul Spain told The AM Show even if this law was introduced, it's not entirely reliable.

"A law change here is actually really hard to enact, and there's only so much impact.

"Online you can't really get rid of anything in the way that some might like. The nature of the internet is that nobody can control it. We can never completely wipe things out."

However, he said it could be useful to wipe historic criminal convictions from the internet.

"In New Zealand we have the clean slate law so if you had a criminal conviction quite some years ago the slate is wiped clean, but really someone could go online and pull that up.

"Maybe there [could be] an extension with that clean slate law that [would] cover the online sphere? I'm not sure. It does seem unfair that if you've had a conviction wiped that people could go on and find that, but you still have to own your past."

Mr Spain said that European regulations on this issue revolve around whether or not it's in the public interest for that information to remain online.

"In Europe, people have to make an appeal to Google to delete an article out of the results. Even if Google may choose to, the article still exists with whichever news organisation published it originally."

Mr Spain said maybe this will encourage people to think ahead a little more, but he's not convinced.

"Over time our opinions change, if we're ashamed of an opinion we held some years ago, that's just how it was."

When AM Show sports presenter Mark Richardson asked if the law would cover things like dick pics, Mr Spain said the European legislation certainly wouldn't cover that sort of thing.

"Once these things are out there it's very hard to close that down."


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