Managing your online identity and understanding how sharing or liking a post can affect your future career or relationship with a loved one becomes complicated as our digital footprint grows.

What level of control do we have over our online presence? Kaspersky has carried out a study which, under the title “Right to be Forgotten,” analyzes this question. The main finding is a general lack of awareness: most respondents are unaware or unsure of the control they have over their online presence or what they could do if they wanted to manage their digital identity. 

Likewise, a widespread misconception can eliminate that information disseminated through social networks can eliminate that information transmitted through social networks.

This same week, the Constitutional Court recognized the Right to be Forgotten in Internet search engines by declaring unconstitutional the resolutions that violated the Right to protection of personal data of a person in the face of information disseminated on the Internet. 

In this sense, Kaspersky has revealed the data of the study The Right to Forget(The Right to be Forgotten), carried out among more than 8,500 Internet users in 11 European countries. 

This report analyzes the level of awareness and attitude toward online privacy and digital footprint and is grouped into three lines of research: the story of awareness of the impact of a person’s digital footprint on their professional career and relationships; understanding both the positive and negative effects of your online activity, in particular, posting on polarized topics; and your predisposition to make a digital will (data that allows access to mail services, web pages, social networks, Internet credit systems, etc.), as well as what happens to your data after your death.

Control Over the Digital Footprint and The Perception of Our Digital Self

One of the most worrying data from the Kaspersky study is that the vast majority of respondents (74%) mistakenly believe that they have the control to eliminate their presence on the Internet.

The research also analyzes how the online presence’s perception can be a problem for many people. In total, 37% of those surveyed affirm that their profiles on social networks do not authentically represent them. Another 47% say that others can get the wrong idea about them from their internet search history.

What NOT to Like

The posts we “like” on social media can profoundly affect how others perceive us. How they behave online can have consequences, and they point to specific topics as riskier and more controversial, affecting the perception of a person and their employment prospects.

Derogatory publications towards disabled people (42%) or against the COVID vaccine (40%), the use of anti-trans language (35%), demonstrating against climate change (27%) or in favor of a particular political party (27%) they are the most harmful when looking for a job or interacting, according to those surveyed in Spain.

Impact on Job Prospects

More than a third of the respondents with a managerial profile (35%) admit to having searched for an employee’s online presence when they joined the company and found something about which they made a value judgment. More than 43% claimed to know someone whose job or career had been negatively affected due to an old social media post. 

42% of users are concerned that their online history could affect their chances of applying for a job. Despite this, nearly a third have never reviewed or deleted their old social media posts.

“Even though the data protection regulations recognize natural persons the so-called “right to digital oblivion,” its exercise is not automatic, but instead must meet a series of conditions for the information disseminated on the Internet to be inadequate, inaccurate, irrelevant, excessive or obsolete and that does not conflict with other fundamental rights such as freedom of expression or the Right to information. 

In other words, the Right to be forgotten does not allow us to erase any trace that we have left on the Internet, so we must be cautious in the same way that we are in the offline world”, recalls Nando Alcina, a lawyer at Bamboo Legal and a specialist in Data Protection.

License to Make a Will

Millions of people who die leave behind their social media profiles and Internet search histories. Many, of course, do not have the opportunity to check their fingerprint first. 

The survey by Kaspersky detects a worrying lack of awareness since almost a third (30%) of respondents have not considered what will become of their digital footprint once they die. Nearly a fifth (17%) assume wrongly that all your social media accounts will be automatically deleted forever.

The research also reveals that 33% would feel comfortable accessing a deceased parent’s social media profile if they left their login details in their will. However, this comfort level is not equal when respondents consider it for themselves. Only 15% plan to leave access to their digital identity or online presence (Internet search, social networks, purchase history, email, iCloud) in their will.

“Data follows us wherever we go; it becomes a part of us and accompanies us throughout our lives. Often the data we share today does not reflect the person we will be tomorrow. We must understand the impact of shared data over time and how it can change our lives tomorrow. 

More importantly, we need to recognize whether, and to what extent, we can permanently erase our old digital identity because it no longer reflects our values,” said David Emm, Principal Security Researcher in Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis team.


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