January 11, 2010

Right to Forget?

It appears that France is considering legislation that would require online data to be deleted/removed after a certain amount of time.

Ignoring the pragmatic implementation issues, assuming a government could actually make this law work -- the debate raises several very interesting policy and culture issues.

-How long and how far should information about our former actions follow us?

-If it's true, should anyone be allowed to say it? What if it's their opinion, but it's quite terrible as it concerns you? What if it was true at some point in the past but may not be so anymore?

-Are we, as an Internet culture, moving to being more forgiving of each other's transgressions, because, hey, who doesn't have some unfortunate party pictures available somewhere on the Internet?

-Or, are we, as an Internet culture, moving to a policed information state, where we have a right to control where our reputations are made and modified. Where we get to protect ourselves from the information related to our former transgressions, because, hey, at some point we all should be able to move on, overcome, and forget our past misdeeds.

-And how does this debate take into consideration the reality that most people find horrifically negative facts about a person to be much more interesting (and therefor higher on the search results) than any (and possibly all) counterbalancing healthy, normal, well adjusted facts?

It's questions like these, and more, that have kept me for so long from being completely open with my identity on this blog.

Lately, though, I can't help but feel that the ship has sailed. I feel as if the Internet has evolved to a place where I have 2 binary options -- I can stay fully engaged in the culture and join the transparency, or I can continue to seclude myself and slowly remove myself from and miss out on many of its newer benefits.

It's a doozy.

[UPDATE: And, the same day I wrote this, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg claimed Privacy is no longer a social norm.]


The Enforcer said...

The funny thing is that most of my "friends" on Facebook don't give a rip about their privacy. Some of the things people post or allow others to see on a daily basis is astounding. And its not like FB makes changing one's privacy settings difficult. Its just that most people honestly don't care and wouldn't even know where to go to modify their settings.

*I* don't appreciate the fact that FB has made blanket changes based on this idea to allow certain things to be viewable and no longer "private" (such as comments on statuses, etc), but really, if I was that concerned about my privacy, I wouldn't use FB at all.

Scary as it is, Zuckerberg's pretty much dead on. *shrug*

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