A week or so ago this link made its way through my tweet stream: “Privacy and the right to be forgotten.” Honestly I didn’t really even read it. I just retweeted it with a +1 or some other sign of approval because the notion that my flippant throwaway comments on the interwebs would be searchable forever has always left me a bit unsettled. Many times I’ve thought “Thank God the Internet wasn’t around when I was 20, because the things I would have said then online would have been order of magnitudes stupider than the stupidest things I say now.” I haven’t gotten any smarter, but I am a little bit better at filtering, and I rarely drink these days.
In so many domains the Internet creates these dichotomous tensions. There are two things we want and the Internet enables either, or neither, but not both.
I personally don’t think we need this kind of law. However, eventually it will become obvious that the cost of storing every damned thing I’ve ever uttered online exceeds any conceivable or achievable ROI from mining it. Hopefully, as companies realize this, they’ll offer a “feature” to solve this problem by letting me, and people like me, establish preferences for time to live and/or time to keep. For example, I’d be perfectly happy if Twitter enabled a one week time to live on every tweet I posted. They are meant to be ephemeral and it would be more than fine with me if their lifespans matched the level of thought I put into them.