Does the Internet really need a Delete Tool?
Every once in a while someone comes along with an idea that makes sense, but given the value of the data we put out there for governments, employers, and marketing folks, I don’t think a delete tool for the internet is going to happen.
I am sure that there are people out there that would love a delete tool, because we do stupid things. The Internet presents an opportunity for monitoring regular people like nothing else we have created. We willingly share all sorts of things from naked pictures on Flickr and Girlfriend/Boyfriend revenge sites, to Reddit, to people who have been set up or stalked by ex-boyfriends/girlfriends. The internet is awash in trash, some of that trash we posted ourselves. We lurch from crisis to crisis, with the echo chamber of the internet amplifying that process in the well-known and for some well understood Streisand Effect.
A delete button though is going to be difficult. It is hard enough getting something taken down now that should not be on the internet or something we did stupid. Like posting a genitalia picture and sending it off to our significant other only to have that significant other share it around the planet. The internet is rapidly becoming “forever” if it is not already, and the more we put on it, the less likelihood that we will ever be able to delete all of it. What is really in that application that you downloaded to your cell phone, and it is really not spying on you? The recent hoopla over Firefox being used as a government tool to spy on regular people is rapidly becoming the norm, and we have no idea where all that data goes, or what it says about us. All you have to do is look at a proxy log of your surfing habits for a day to become interested, or using a program like Collusion or Firefox Ghost to see just how much monitoring goes out on there.
Still, the former Google CEO did touch on some moral issues related to certain types of data collection. “In America, there is a sense of fairness, culturally true for all of us…if you have a teenage boy or girl who makes a mistake–does some sort of crime, goes to juvenile hall, is released–in our system, they can apply and have that expunged from their record. They can legally state that they were never convicted of anything. That seems like a reasonable thing,” Schmidt said. “Today, that’s not possible because of the Internet…[and] that seems to violate our innate sense of fairness.””This lack of a delete button on the Internet is in fact a significant issue,” Schmidt said. “There are times when erasure [of data] is the right thing…and there are times when it is inappropriate. How do we decide? We have to have that debate now.” Source Fast Company
And that is where this gets interesting, if we really understood how much data there is on us that would be an interesting wake up call. Unfortunately it is impossible to find out everything that every tracking company, government, bot herder, or slippery system admin knows about us, or the users of a product or a service.
This keeps things interesting, and might be a good reason for a delete button. I don’t think for a minute that will happen, there are still things about me on the internet that I wish were not, but I can’t have them removed. People have a right to their opinion; as long as it does not cross the line into the legal realm we are ok. A delete button though? I am not sure I would want one, sure I have done some incredibly stupid things in my past, and some of that was on the internet, but if you really want to know what I am about, you need to take the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes the downright stupid things that we all do online.
What will really complicate things is not so much that there is not a delete button, but rather what happens when we are denied a job or benefits or even safety because of something we posted online? If nothing else, then a delete button makes sense, but no company is going to give up its treasure trove of information about you, because you were an idiot.