Saturday, May 24, 2014

You Have The Right To... Uh... Wait. What Was I Saying!?

I listen to podcasts as I drive. And on my way to Minnesota I heard one that was in my queue that was discussing the new "Right To Be Forgotten" ruling out of the European Courts.

I am not even sure how this could work even if it should! The Internet is not "...a series of tubes..." as Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) would have you believe. It is is a series of servers. Each privately, publicly, or commercally owned. They are not goverend by any central authority. They are not organised in any way.

They are, as the "WWW" implies, a world-wide web of interconnected servers each saving and passing information between themselves. So that selfie you posted yesterday is on Instragram's servers somewhere. But when your friend tweeted a copy of it, it hit a whole new server or set of servers. And then if it gets shared to Facebook, a whole other set of servers comes into the picture (no pun intended...). And gods forbid it should be unusually cleaver or noteworthy... in that case it could go viral and there could be digital copies of it by the millions on servers all over the world.

What the European courts you have you believe is that somehow you have the right to un-take that selfie - or at least have it fade to the level of banality that you feel it should deserve. You somehow have the right to anonymity. Somehow you have the right to recall the leigions of little files that are spread all over the world and eradicate them.

Please understand, I am not saying that I disagree with the courts - I am of two minds on this one. Yeah, there are lots of things that I would LOVE to have forgotten - My cousins know of a particularly heanous picture of me as a child in an Easter Suit. But if you think I am going to immortalize it by adding it to the internet...

But do I have the right to have any embarrassing or personally uncomfortable fact of myself removed from the internet? Sure, the ruling said that I have the right to have information about myself that is irrelevant and/or injurious removed from he internet. (Technically, "no" because I am not under their juristdiction... but, play along.)

But who gets to determine relevance? I think that horrible easter suit picture is both injurious and irrelevant. But what if my folks had posed me in front of proof of alien life? What if my folks were spies and sending secret messages by use of my bowtie? What about less fanciful examples. Were I to have a criminal record? Or what if I had some rather horrendous and highly contageous disease?

In the inetivitable Tug-of-War between privacy of the individual and the public's need to know... exactly how long can my right to privacy trump the public right to know?

So, as I said... I am of two minds to I really have a right to be uh...? The eventual fate? Sure... but the right?

Wherever you are today, I hope that you are remembered long and kindly!

Don Berguist - May 24, 2014 - Kensington, Minnesota, USA

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