Why Internet Deletion Is ‘nearly Impossible’

The vast majority of internet users probably assume they can permanently erase all of their online communications and data at any time. This week, however, a technical hearing called into question this fundamental assumption.

Why Internet Deletion Is 'nearly Impossible'
Why Internet Deletion Is ‘nearly Impossible’

The former Twitter security chief Peiter “Mudge” Zatko testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday, expanding on bombshell allegations he made in a whistleblower disclosure first reported by CNN and The Washington Post last month.

Zatko claimed in his testimony and whistleblower disclosure that Twitter does not consistently delete user data, sometimes due to the company’s inability to locate said data. As a whole, Twitter has refuted Zatko’s claims, claiming that his disclosure presents a “false narrative” about the company. Twitter has said it has workflows in place to “begin a deletion process” in response to questions from CNN, but has not said whether or not it usually follows through.
While Sandra Matz found Zatko’s allegations shocking, they also served as a reminder of “how often mindless we are” when it comes to sharing personal information online.

According to Matz, a social media researcher and professor at Columbia Business School, “it sounds very simple, but whatever you put out there, don’t ever expect it to become private again.” It’s very difficult to “un-post” something online or “reset” it.

It’s arguable that we’ve never been at greater risk of losing the peace of mind that comes from knowing we can always delete old data when we no longer need it. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, there is now the possibility of using people’s online activity (including search histories, location data, text messages, and more) to punish them for seeking abortion services or information online.

News broke in July that a Nebraska teen and her mother had been charged with having an illegal abortion based on messages sent through Messenger and obtained by law enforcement. (There was no evidence that any of the messages in that instance had been cleared from the system in the past.)

It’s arguable that we’ve never been at greater risk of losing the peace of mind that comes from knowing we can always delete old data when we no longer need it. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, there is now the possibility of using people’s online activity (including search histories, location data, text messages, and more) to punish them for seeking abortion services or information online.

News broke in July that a Nebraska teen and her mother had been charged with having an unlawful abortion based on texts received through Messenger and acquired by law authorities. (There was no evidence that any of the communications in that instance had been cleared from the system in the past.)

Sen claims that many people are unaware of the many destinations for their personal information. Whether it’s an email, a social network comment, or a private message, every communication you make online is stored somewhere: on your device, the device of the person you sent it to, and the servers of the firm whose platform you used. If the original content creator deletes something, it should disappear from all three places, he said. However, “it doesn’t happen that easy,” he stressed.

Sen stated that individuals may contact businesses to request that their data be removed from their servers. He also noted that the longer a communication is removed from a user’s device, the less likely it is that it may be recovered.

According to experts on data privacy, the most effective method for maintaining command over your digital footprint is to prioritize the use of apps that provide end-to-end encryption. To further ensure that sensitive information from encrypted services is not accessible elsewhere, it is also vital to control your cloud backup settings.