Dr Paul Bernal from the University of East Anglia's School of Law has said that consumers face a battle with technology firms over the right to privacy.
Dr Bernal delivered a discussion paper on the problem at the annual Privacy Law Scholars' Conference at the University of California, Berkeley.
He told V3 that companies like Google and Facebook present the most obvious challenges because their objectives are different to consumers'.
"I think the key issue for consumers, and indeed for people in general, is to recognise that their own interests don't always coincide with the interests of Google, Facebook etc. And where they don't coincide, Google and Facebook will prioritise their interests over ours," he said.
"I don't think governments will ever really get to grips with this, so it's up to us by behaving in a more 'savvy' way, by challenging the companies vocally, in the courts where necessary, and by working with pressure groups."
Dr Bernal's paper, A right to be remembered? Or the internet, warts and all, calls for a "revolutionary power shift", adding that, while consumers assume some anonymity, they do not have any real comprehension of how the internet treats their personal data.
"We ask a great deal of the internet, and much of what we ask for is contradictory. Our perceptions of the internet are similarly confused and contradictory," Dr Bernal said in a statement.
"Google itself is a paradox: at times we treat it as a philanthropic indexer of the internet and champion of freedom of expression, at other times as an evil mega-corporation driven only by profit or trying to control the world and indeed us.
"We expect it to provide imaginative, innovative and engaging products and services, and we expect it to do so for nothing and without invading our privacy or gathering our data."
V3 asked Google and Facebook for their feedback on Dr Bernal's comments, but had not received a reply at the time of publication.
Both companies have recently made announcements suggesting that users have much tighter, and more granular, control over their data and their online experience than ever before.
However, Apple chief executive Tim Cook suggested this week that his rivals' free services have ulterior motives, and European regulators have attempted to poll the technology firms on the use of encryption.
Dr Bernal thinks that more control is needed, and that people need to better understand the system.
"Sometimes what people would like to be remembered becomes lost, whilst at other times things that people would rather were forgotten are inconveniently but seemingly permanently remembered," he said.
"Very few of us want to be forgotten, but most of us would like more influence on how we are remembered and, more importantly, how we are seen in the present and how decisions about us are made and on what basis."
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