Erasing all traces of your digital life may seem like a daunting task to the millions of Internet users who scatter their personal data on the web. But three young Israelis have developed a tool to help them with just a few clicks.
After their military service in cybersecurity units of the Israeli army, Gal Ringel, Gal Golan and Kobi Nissan created a few years ago the company “Mine” which wants to help, as simply as possible, Internet users to be forgotten thanks to artificial intelligence.
A user enters their email address on the group’s site which, using artificial intelligence, lists all the companies the user has been in contact with and shows what data has been shared (date of birth, home address, bank details. ..).
The user can then decide to contact each company to request that their data be deleted, with an email template prepared by Mine, which also ensures that they do not have access to the content of the emails but only to the “subject” line of the trades.
“You are the sole owners of your data,” claims the company on its website. “Our technology gives you access, transparency and control over the data you share online.”
According to Gal Ringel, one million people have already used “Mine’s” services, which are free for individuals and paid for by companies, and ten million data erasure requests have been sent to companies.
“We are not telling people not to use Facebook or Google but we are saying: as you like to use the internet, we will show you who knows what about you and what the risks are,” Ringel told AFP.
– Incomplete regulations –
“Mine” is not the only tool for tracking down and erasing digital data, but its creators believe that it is one of the simplest and most widely used.
In Israel, legislation is behind schedule and unable to cope with today’s digital challenges, says Naama Matarasso Karpel, director of Privacy Israel, an NGO that fights for the right to privacy through education and legislation.
The country, which bills itself as the “start-up nation” due to its bubbling high-tech sector, does not have the equivalent of the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation passed by the European Union (EU ) in 2018, which has become an international reference and which notably enshrines the right to erasure of data on the Internet.
Hackers have also recently managed to penetrate the database of Atraf, an Israeli LGBTQ site, and that of Shirbit, a local insurance company.
“Privacy is a bit like health or air, you don’t feel like you need it until you realize you really lack it,” says Naama Matarasso Karpel.
According to her, companies have become aware more quickly than individuals of the issue of online confidentiality, convinced that this could be an asset to put forward to establish a feeling of trust among their customers.
“Mine”, which has just been contacted by companies wishing to strengthen this confidentiality, has developed a special tool for the private sector to tell where customer data is stored and to simplify the often “tedious” steps to delete it, explains Mr. Ringel.
However, not all data is identifiable and some cannot be legally deleted, which limits the activities of the Israeli company.
Erasing data, in general, is “a complicated technical exercise”, notes Omer Tene, co-founder of the Israel Tech Policy Institute, a research center based in Tel Aviv.
Given that there are fifty shades of data online, “it’s hard to fulfill that promise of deleting things online with just the push of a button,” he notes.
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Erase your online data in a few clicks, the ambition of an Israeli company
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