*(주)탑로직 언론보도 연세대학교 영자언론 Yonsei annals
연세대학교 영자언론 Yonsei annals
The Rise of the Digital Undertaker
People who want to be forgotten online
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LIM JEE-YEON
“THERE IS a time when erasure is a right thing,” said the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. He worried about the digital world with no delete button and people not being able to remove their information from the Internet. Then, he emphasized “the right to be forgotten.” For this reason, digital undertakers, agents who clear off distributed personal data, are rapidly emerging.
Even though, digital undertakers have been receiving heightened interest, many people are quite unaware of this relatively new profession. Digital undertakers vicariously delete unwanted online information for their clients’ privacy. At first, they only erased the records of people who died. Nowadays, however, they are also employed when there are special requests to remove undesired online traces of specific people.
Park Yong-seon, president of TopLogic Corporation, stated that the main tasks of the digital undertakers are deleting postings and individual accounts from various Social Network Services (SNS) and portal sites.
Celebrities accelerated the development of digital undertakers. Many celebrities wanted to remove their overexposed photos, or articles and posts about malicious rumors before they reached their fame. According to Park, a large number of celebrities have an exclusive contract with digital undertakers for reputation managing purposes. However, due to high usage of the Internet and SNS,
ordinary people became main customers as well. Some people are victims of cybercrime suffering from inappropriate video leaking. Also, others want to get rid of thoughtless remarks they made on their SNS. For example, Park mentioned deleting images before plastic surgery and records of old relationships as the most received requests from ordinary people. These people want new beginnings, but they are concerned on relics of their past that may hurt their reputation. Therefore, these requests are usually made before employment and marriage. Sometimes, politicians and business people ask to delete the information which can become obstacles to their career and businesses. Park also said, “As the online community grows, the amount of information and communication posted on the Internet is increasing, and it is inevitable that there will be more exposures to the public. However, since the Internet channels are so diverse, it is not easy for ordinary publishers to delete posts directly. Therefore, the role of digital undertakers who specializes in deleting Internet postings is significant.”
The trend of guaranteeing the right to be forgotten is also seen ion law-making. The decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), made in May 2014, sparked the debate over the rights to be forgotten. In a lawsuit against Google, M.C. Gonzales, a Spanish lawyer, asked them to delete the article containing sensitive information regarding debt of a house that was auctioned off in the past. The ECJ ordered Google to take the search results away because it violates privacy. Moreover, National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), the French data protection authority, recently imposed a fine of €100,000 (approximately ₩130 million) to Google, for not respecting privacy provisions relating to the collection of data in the operation of Google Street View. In South Korea, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) released "Guidelines to Request Access Denial to One’s Own Posts" that allow Internet users to keep others from their online records. However, this right to be forgotten is an ongoing controversy as there may be a politician, an enterprise, or a criminal who tries to hide the truth from the public for his or her own benefit. The right to know is just as important as the right to be forgotten. Therefore, setting the limits of the right to be forgotten must be discussed.
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Due to the development of the Internet and widespread of SNS, all our behaviors remain documented. People are feeling insecure about this situation and requests for digital undertakers are increasing. Personal privacy and the right to be forgotten must be ensured. However, since it can be abused by criminals and can violate people's right to know, we should analyze the situation accurately and enact a proper law that balances both rights.
May 12th, 2017
Lim Jee-yeon, Cub Reporter-to-be