Digital Tattoos & Cyber Vetting

Permanency of Social Media Posts, Comments, Shares, & Images

Online Privacy Does Not Exist

With Children using social media, games and gaming communities at ever younger ages, personal data, beliefs, comments, posts, images etc whether accurate or not, will be available ‘forever’ including when the child becomes an adult.

The education company Kaplan found that 36 percent of college admissions use social media profiles in decision-making about applicants; 58 percent reported that what they found had a negative impact. “The ripple effects of derogatory language can be very long and deep,” said Tara L. Conley. Interestingly in Europe, social media posts are often considered data and easier to regulate. In America, social media posts are considered speech, and free speech often outweighs the right to privacy.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt once suggested that young people have the automatic right to change their names upon adulthood, to gain distance from their online pasts, of course this simply would not work due to the data being discovered by facial recognition, ‘Cyber Vetting’.

But when should children / young adults actually know better, and how far should social media be used to judge and delve into identity and social conduct?


  • Data Collection and Retention exists
  • Further Education Colleges offer & deny places because of cyber vetting
  • Employment establishments (companies) use Cyber Vetting as part of their Selection Recruitment Process
  • Cyber Vetting can be carried by individuals, companies or using software
  • Cyber Vetting is ‘Legal’

What about the Right to be Forgotten?

The right to be forgotten Article 17 of the GDPR states, “The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data without undue delay”. So, children and parents can petition data companies to unlink them in search engines  (even from things that they have posted themselves) from information that’s no longer relevant to their reputation.

Section 4 of this petition request the ‘reason for erasure request’ with one of the reasons being ‘You are a child, you represent a child, or you were a child at the time of the data processing, and you feel your personal data was used to offer you information society services’

Unfortunately, whilst the Right to be Forgotten does exist ‘on paper’ but there are many variables that tend to hinder data deletion and whilst each request will have to be evaluated individually, there is the additional technical issue of identifying all the places an individual’s personal data is stored or processed.

Deletion v Permanent (Criminal Records v Online Records)

Here in UK our legal system allows for the deletion or wiping out of juvenile criminal records, depending on the severity of the crime, the age of the defendant and other factors. So, faux pas or misguided behaviour as a juvenile can be forgotten under our legal system. But we haven’t yet done it for inappropriate or unacceptable online posts, comments or shares.

Irina Raicu, director of the Internet Ethics Program at the Centre at Santa Clara University, stated “Should we judge people for who they are now or who they were, years or decades ago?” “….. we do need to allow for the possibility of people growing and changing.”

Education & Awareness

Online Harm is normally described as Sexual, Physical or Emotional Exploitation, whilst this can take place at any age, Online Reputation Damage can occur to all because of not protecting your Digital Tattoo.

Students now need to be proactive in creating Positive Digital Tattoos & cleaning up their Social Media Profiles to ensure Cyber Vetting by Universities & future Employers remains positive. What Students do not understand is that people besides their friends (i.e., Colleges, law enforcement, principals, parents, and potential employers) are looking in on these behaviours constantly. They need to be aware of the possible consequences due to the permanency, viewing and accessibility of online posts, sharing, comments and images,

Jonathan Taylor MSc – Online Safety 4 Schools – email

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