Is it possible to delete information from the Internet?

Questions from "The Question":

Is it possible to remove information from the Internet so that it does not remain on any server anywhere? And how does the removal of information from the Internet happen in general?

I will answer, as it is sometimes written in tests: “More likely no than yes”. It is not an easy task to delete information on the Internet. And the trouble here lies in two factors.

The first is the dynamic nature of the Internet. On the Internet, changes occur sometimes every minute. From the banal updates of the site or social network (remember, this is when the usual button on the left, suddenly turns right), to the appearance or disappearance of entire resources. This is often out of sight of the observer, but the Internet now is a giant living ocean. An integral part of this ocean is copying, and dissemination of information from one source to many.

Of course, most often this happens with some popular topic, which has attracted hundreds, if not millions, and now “replicated” in mass on the Internet. But we should not rule out private cases as well. It will not be written about it in the news, but if your public data liked even a few random people, they can keep it: on a page, in a blog, insert it in a video or somewhere else.

The second is the specifics of data storage in data centers and on server systems. The point is that in order not to wear out already loaded hard drives on the server (especially when it comes to systems with millions of users such as social networks) during deletion, files are not physically deleted, but only marked “for deletion”. And they are deleted only when new data has to be written in their place.

But even to this stage a file on the server may unfortunately not reach. Remember, in social networks after deleting a profile, you are told that they care about you so much that you have as many as 10 (20, 30, or as many as the creator of the site will think) days to change your mind, and restore the profile? This means that this time your data will not even be marked for deletion. They will simply be disconnected from public access.

Another approach to data storage on servers also affects the situation. It is to create a backup. Everything here is quite individual, but if you roughly sum it up, when you create regular “backups” on the server, your data will remain in the backup (and maybe not even in one), even after deleting it on the site.

As a result, we get the following situation. For example, you uploaded some “hot” picture by mistake to a social network. You were also pleased to share it (that is, the photo was seen not only by your friends, but also by the entire social network). If you grabbed it in the morning, you will pour out and then delete the photo. “Ugh! The main thing is that your friends do not see! — you think. And your friends really did not have time to look. But here’s a dodgy kid, who accidentally came to your page at night, not only saw it, but also kept it on the page (it was in the public domain). And returning to the factors: the first factor — the dynamics of the Internet, played a bad joke, and your photo was copied online. Now it is not yours and you will not be able to delete it (only if you do not address the person, or through the court, or other difficult way). But the second factor is not slumbering either — despite the fact that your personal copy has been removed from your profile, in fact, it is only marked on the server for deletion. And then again it is confusing — in addition to that, another copy of your photo was in the night backup on the server. Of course, they are not available to Internet users, but formally it was not possible to delete them everywhere anymore.

If by “information” in question we mean not just photos and posts, but entire pages of the site, that is, such charming things (again related to factor one) as Internet Archive and other sites that create copies of sites on the network in order to save the last for history. Or for other purposes known only to the creator. Then remote even from the hosting site, can then be found in the depths of the network.

By the way, the first factor, and thousands and one opportunity to clone data on the Internet often suffer from “selectivity”. Which can “leak” unpleasant photos or written in a “drunken fume” stupidity on a social network. Erased in the morning — but it’s already late. Ten resources safely kept the record for themselves. And here we will have to call a lawyer again instead of the “Delete” button.

To all of the above, you can add one more annoying factor. Failure. Yes, yes, all our high technologies, not only help humanity (and here I am not joking, really help), but also “glitch”. And, as a rule, at the most unfortunate moment. And now imagine that after you deleted, for example, a profile in a social network failed, and after those very 10 days “to change your mind” your files are not marked for deletion, but just stayed on the server. In a closed state, of course, for public access. But formally, you could not delete the data.

Fortunately, even in such a ridiculous situation they will not “lie” forever. The administration of resources makes sure that the confidentiality of data is not violated and corrects such errors. Periodic updates and “cleansing” to free resources also help.

As a result, in fact, it is really possible to completely remove data from the Internet only if:

They were lying on your personal server (which is at home, in the office, or in another place where you have access), and you physically disconnect it from the Internet and after removing the data and format the hard drive (and if for sure, disassemble the hard drive, scratch the work area, and only then throw it in the garbage). It is known that your data was not copied on the network.

Or the second option — you removed it from the source where you stored it. And after a while, on the server, in their place someone else’s file was written. From now on, we can consider that they are 100% removed from the Internet. But then again, on the condition that no one copied this data before deleting it, and it is not saved in the backup copy.

To sum it up. The two factors described above make it almost impossible to delete data on the Internet so that there is nowhere else to do so. In theory, you can turn on the judiciary and try to push the owner of the servers where your data was stored to “really delete” it. But we all understand that this approach does not always lead to a winning case. And even if the owner goes to your meeting — guarantees that they are not stored somewhere else on the network while they were in the public domain really no. And chasing lawyers for anyone who has kept something on the Internet about you is not a task for the faint of heart (in addition, you can not always find such a person. He can keep a copy of it in his own place, on a closed server or forum, where there is access only under the password). So it is left to hope that if you are not a public person, you will simply not be noticed and no one will copy the data.

But I would not advise being shocked and paranoid about it. Just follow a simple and very old rule. If you want your data to be confidential, never upload it to the Internet. And you can remove everything else from your source and just don’t think where else it could be. After all, if you follow this rule, it means there is no critical data of yours on the Internet, and therefore nothing to worry about.

Author: Sergey Ulyashenkov

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