Saturday, August 09, 2014

The right to be forgotten vs the right to remember

In Europe, Google is getting their clocks cleaned by a government trying to impose the right to be forgotten upon them. The European Commission appears to be trying to balance this right with other rights, but one thing should remain clear: Everything you do on the internet is permanent. Everything.

Everything is cached somewhere. Data is archived, often in multiple places. Want to put a selfie up on Facebook with you posed nude in a lampshade at a party? In a few months, your friends will forget. Pinterest? Stumbled-upon? Twitter? They never forget. There is also the Internet Archive. At least you had a lampshade on.

I think that the right to be forgotten needs to be balanced with the right to have the facts correct. I have the right to ensure that the information posted about me is accurate, timely and relevant. That's it. There is no right to be forgotten. There never was because this isn't just the internet. The internet is where human culture lives, worldwide, forever, as long as there is electricity, storage and processing power, there will be the internet.

Remove yourself from the internet and the culture dies a little. We all have a right to be a part of that culture. We also have a right to remember you, with all of your faults and defects of character, as well as your strengths and gifts. The right to be forgotten does not outweigh the right for the rest of us to remember you.

For the young people out there who think they're immortal, hey, you might be immortal, but the internet will outlive you. The internet will change, it will grow, it will morph, but it will still be a worldwide network with a long-lived memory. Whatever you do, say, or record, if it gets on the internet, it stays on the internet until everyone who has a copy decides to pull it down.

Who has a copy? Who knows? How many? There is no way to know. Just ask Barbara Streisand about that gorgeous shot of her house, you know, the one she wanted removed from the internet? Yeah, that one.

This is why I never put something up on the internet unless I'm absolutely sure I want it there. Everyone needs to think this way. It's not about having something to hide, rather, it's about acknowledging that there is a balance to strike between privacy and publicity. Every human needs privacy. If we look hard enough, we can find it. If we're lucky, we have friends and family who respect our right to privacy by not putting stuff up on the internet that we don't want on there.

But the second we put something up there, countless servers are ready to store that information, and transfer it, worldwide as the case may be, everywhere. Whether you like it or not, the internet has become a repository of human consciousness for everyone connected. What you put into it and get out of it is your choice.

Like any powerful tool, you must use it with care and respect for both edges.
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