I have a bit of conundrum in thinking of making a business directory site listing businesses and people in a community-driven/edited way (like Wikipedia).

Say that a community of people add personal details of 10,000 business members online. One of those business people would like their name removed from the system. Okay we remove it. But what is to stop the community from creating it again? It seems there would have to be an endless cycle of adding/removing/adding/removing-request etc.

The reason is, say you actually delete all traces of the user's record "Jane Doe, [email protected], @janedoe". Then someone goes to add a new person, "Jane Doe, @janedoe". We don't know that was a previously removed person, to prevent from being added again. So that's conundrum 1.

The next conundrum is, say we have a hidden internal database of previously deleted people, so we can match against when people try to add new people, and prevent them from adding existing people. First off, there is no real simple way of being able to tell that "Jane Doe, @janedoe" and "Jane Doe, [email protected], @janedoe" are the same person. Perhaps they deleted their email address and someone else with the same name took it up. Or many other reasons it would be hard to tell. So we can't really prevent in that way.

But we also still have this hidden internal database of previously deleted users. We need sufficient data for each user to know which users have been deleted, so we can optimally remove new users with the same identifying pieces of info. So then now it's basically, we have a private and a public database of users, the private one used to maintain security but requires detailed user info, and a public database that has whatever info we choose to make public.

Also, having the "deleted user database" could be a security hole, whereby users try creating random addresses and usernames, until they get "locked out" of one of them, knowing they discovered a deleted account which must be a real account.

So I don't really see a clear way to actually delete people's data in such a community-driven site, do you? What are the laws around this?

Must Wikipedia delete the page of Barack Obama if he asks of it?

  • 1
    Is there a legal requirement to ensure that the deleted information isn’t ever reposted? I don’t think so.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 17, 2021 at 13:55

1 Answer 1


Neither the GDPR, nor the CCPA, nor any other data protection law that I am aware of, requires that when information is deleted on request, that similar information not be collected and stored in future. Under the GDPR Article 6 there would have to be a lawful basis for any processing, including storage, assuming that the GDPR applies to the directory in question. There could be a claim that such processing was lawful under article 6(e) "performance of a task carried out in the public interest". I do not know if any such claim has been adjudicated.

Thus there is no need to hold a database of previously erased records to determine if a new record should be blocked as "previously deleted".

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, I believe takes the position that the GDPR does not apply to Wikipedia, I am not sure of their detailed arguments. But surely articles on well-known people, such as a former US president, would be covered under the same provisions as would cover news reports and historical books about such a person. Perhaps that would also come under article 6(e)


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