Please don't remember me

Most people want to be remembered, but there's a growing group of European politicians and bureaucrats that think you want to be forgotten.

(aside)Thanks to Gartner Research Director Ian Glazer for pointing me towards this article.(/aside)

In a recent issue ofThe Atlantic magazine, staff writer John Hendel (who usually writes about food issues) penned an article highlighting the different thinking on either side of the Atlantic Ocean about online posting and archiving. According to Hendel:

"This developing right, authorities in several European countries suggest, would allow an individual to control and sometimes eliminate his or her data trail and allow him or her to ask Google to remove select search results -- a newspaper article, say, which once painted him or her in a bad light."

That's right - they want the ability to remove not only their own postings but also others postings that talk about them.

Now there are those who define "your reputation" as the sum of what others say about you. So should you have the ability to remove from that equation not only provable factual inaccuracies but also negative opinions?

Your reputation is, arguably, a large part of your online identity. It attaches to one or more of your online personas. There's a great many people working to try to formulate a way to attach a metric to that reputation in order for "trust" (a nebulous term at best) to be quantifiable so that ad hoc transactions can take place online with more or less assurance that both parties to the transaction will deliver what they promise (money, goods, services, romance, etc.). Trust frameworks are being worked on in many venues. But if we can't "trust" the reputation matrix because the described party has been allowed to selectively edit the data it's based on then there's little hope of ever developing some sort of ad hoc trust method.

Could this "right to be forgotten" come about? In January 2010, according to the article in the Atlantic, Spain sued Google to force the removal of 90 links from it's database. Many of the links Spain wanted to remove included newspaper articles and information from public records which often portrayed Spaniards in a bad light. Note that there was no suit to have the newspaper article(s) removed, just the Google link to the article. Spain's Data Protection Agency says it went after Google on the request of the individuals involved because the original publishers of the links cannot legally be ordered to take them down.[emphasis added]

Just ponder the illogic of that!

If we ever hope to evolve a trust mechanism based on reputation so that ad hoc transactions requiring identity information can occur over the Internet, then this spurious "right to be forgotten" needs to be forgotten.

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