…but sometimes we do. So a new startup, Memolane, wants to help us remember. You sign up and then add the services you want to add to your digital memory lane. Memolane then collects pretty much everything you’ve done using those services (Picassa, FourSquare, Twitter, and so on) and puts them in a time line. The right to be forgotten? Forget that. This is the most amazing instantiation of the internet’s memory that I’ve seen.
And I write this having just created my own memolane. It goes back to 2006, when I first posted a photo online using Picassa. I have to say that I’m sitting here looking at my screen with my jaw on the floor. It is completely remarkable.
The privacy issues here barely need stating: hack this, and you’ve hacked all of my Web 2.0 activities for the last five years. Having said that, the Memolane folk are very clear about privacy being extremely important to them.
I need to go and stare at my timeline for a bit longer and say wow a few more times. Perhaps then I’ll come back with something more intelligent to say. Until then, eat your heart out, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger.
(Thanks to the New York Times for bringing my attention to this.)
I was at the recent OECD Conference on the Evolving Role of Individual in Privacy Protection: 30 Years after the OECD Privacy Guidelines. One of the issues that was discussed was the right to be forgotten. This is analyzed in an extremely readable book, Delete, by Victor Mayer-Schonberger. The problem is simply that digital memory is eternal: stupid stuff that we say online, or pictures that perhaps we shouldn’t have uploaded, are there for ever. You might take down the picture, but if someone has already saved it and distributed it, it’s out of your control.
A solution that people are beginning to think about is the idea of an automatic self-destruct feature for stuff we put on Facebook and other social networks. In other words, unless you specifically request otherwise, any update or comment you write on Facebook, say, would disappear after a certain period of time. This would make it harder for future employees (or dates) to prejudge you on a youthful indiscretion, as the automatically deleted stuff would not appear when they Google you (and they will Google you).
There is, of course, no business case for doing this. The more data Facebook has about us, the more accurate profiles it can sell to advertisers. So there are two ways something like this could happen. The first would be through regulation, the second would be through consumer power. I wouldn’t count on either of them.