Thursday, 10 May 2007

Photographic memory bad, amnesia good!

I just read a very thought provoking post entitled Escaping the data panopticon: Prof says computers must learn to "forget" on Ars Technica which is well worth a read. It makes reference to a paper by a Professor Mayer-Schönberger who makes a good case for building amnesia into a system, in other words, an expiry date on the data that is stored. In a nutshell, he says that it could lead to a society where people are afraid to express themselves because it will be recorded forever and potentially could be used against them.

I see some examples of information being publicly available and being used against people. Recently a student did not receive a degree because of a myspace photo on her blog. Here is a long list of people who have famously lost their jobs because of their blogs. I first ran into this phenonema a few years ago when I heard about the Queen of Sky, a flight attendent who was fired for a (not very) raunchy photo (i.e. a tiny bit of cleavage) on her blog and instantly sided with her point of view. It's likely that a nasty manager will use anything to get rid of an employee no matter how unfair it is and blogs and myspace photos are all fair game, it would seem.

Imagine how bad this scenario could get projecting it into the future. Perhaps we all need to hide behind a veil of anonimity and stop being so trusting with the internet, perhaps we also need to start building an expiry date on the data stored on our computers too. Food for thought.


vms said...

Really appreciate your comments.


Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger

The Recursion King said...

Actually the more I think about what you have written the more I realise that you have drawn attention to an important point. "Web 2.0" is all about collaboration, user generated content and openness and for the most this seems to be working. Sites like Wikipedia are generally reliable "enough" to use as a starting point for research into a topic, for example.

However, when we've all been burned for sharing personal information on these user generated sites (by this I'm referring more to myspace, youtube and so on) and having that information used against us in ways that we didn't expect, we may start to close off leading to the society you have described.

Perhaps that is what will be known as "Web 3.0" - user generated anonomous content with fewer and fewer users participating.