So are you a deletionist or preservationist when it comes to your online history? A highlight of this years South By Southwest Interactive Conference attempted to address the controversial issue of privacy on the internet and the “right to be forgotten”. Led by lawyers Jill Van Matre and Meg Ambrose, the panel addressed privacy, free speech, and forgiveness in the digital age. Matre and Ambrose identified named two emerging schools of thought: the “preservationist” and the “deletionist”.
“Preservationists believe the Internet is a robust world of information and ideas, and that there should be an accepted understanding of whatever you put out there digitally is now owned by the universe.”
Deletionists believe the Internet is just a further representation of our every day world” and that “as these worlds have begun to completely align, we should be owed the same rights to privacy for both.”
In the United States, the idea of being able to delete your online history is tantamount to censorship. Other countries have embraced the idea of a right to be forgotten implementing stricter privacy controls including the ability of users to demand information be removed.
I am a big fan of privacy but when it comes to online content, once you put something out there you cannot take it back or erase it from history. This idea, that nothing can be erased from the internets that you willingly put out there, should be drilled into the minds of every man, woman, and child today. The consequences can be devastating – especially when searching for employment. That killer kegstand you did on the steps of the school library that was uploaded to Facebook? How about when you dropped trou and mooned some nuns at the convent? Not so much fun when a potential employer is doing the standard background check.
There are situations where content is uploaded to the internet without permission. In the case of the “Star Wars Kid” (Click here to see the video – with over 25 million views to date, my guess is you may already have.) , 15 year old Ghyslain Raza recreated scenes from Star Wars and recorded himself on a video not meant to be for public consumption. When some classmates got their hands on it and uploaded the video to a file sharing site, it caused Ghyslain extreme humiliation and ridicule at school to the point where he had to drop out and undergo psychiatric care. His parents are now suing the families of the four kids who were responsible for uploading the video. This kind of lawsuit I agree with. He should be able to delete this bit of unfortunate history.
Be mindful of what you put online for all to see – it will most likely be there for the rest of your life.