Do you want the right to be forgotten?


Image : I had a flashback of something that never existed

The interpretation of "Do you want the right to be forgotten?" in my mind is a war of words and misunderstandings.  On the top of one hill overlooking the battle field is a camp full of the privacy brigade who are awash with good use cases and top attention grabbing headlines. Pitched up on the other hill are the web 2.0 companies who want your data so they can offer a service for free; avoiding pay walls, annoying advertising and slow death.  In no-mans land are the regulators and the battle is being watched by us as aware, but not really caring participants, who have a live stream and a back channel for those who happen to want to voice an opinion on the current trending social media platform.  This is different topic  to the "do not track me" debate.  

So what do we (I) actually want.....

A right - "something that affords me some kind of protection"  The Wiki definition is better

A right to rescind - legally the ability to back out of something your have committed to - already established in law

A right to delete (a specific piece of your content) - "technically" you can delete anything you have created. Physically when published your content/ data can be copied and pasted by a third party and therefore this ideal of delete becomes rather hard to in-force or do. If you were mindful of this fact and you published everything with "all rights reserved" and copyrighted then no-one can do anything with your content unless you grant a licence and you can use the law to get your content removed.  However this will prevent you from using any web service as their terms and conditions will not grant you this.  However there is the case of "In the Public Interest" (not the public is interested in) as in this case your personal rights (to delete, remove or hide) could be overtaken by the rights of society as a body.  Other complications included you wanting to delete content about you that someone else created.  You are protected by privacy and libel laws but extending Rights to you to delete my comments on you violates my freedom of speech; so let us stop here on this track before we question if you are trying to delete something that could prove you avoided paying tax, wanted to cause harm or admitted to a crime.

A right to be deleted - This is where you would like the right to be deleted (entirely) from a service such as Facebook.  This is really tricky unless you have no friends as there are links from others content to you and from your content to others.  It may be possible to hide your content, but deleting it would require you to have more rights that your friends over shared content.

A right to be forgotten - This picks up on the issues that are presented with delete and deleted when it becomes apparent you cannot delete data.  This is trying to find some neutral ground that makes your content/data anonymous so it does not identity you.   Again interesting theory, but your identity can be reconstructed from your data as this previous blog and therefore would this really give you any right?

A right to be ignored - Moving past the flippant responses to this, you can already choose to switch off cookies, browse in private/ incognito and with no tracking.  However, the more I ignore you and your data the worse your web experience will become as I blast you with more and more untargeted adverts or put a pay-wall in to make you pay.  

A right to control - Control assumes understanding and/or ability.  This is a tricky as you may have many rights for control, but that does not mean you know how to use them or what happens when there is a conflict between your controls and your desires.  ( don't share my data, give me a free service)

A right to only have selected things collected - This is ready available....  is there an issue with the UI/UX or to businesses just want to hide these controls...

A right to understand what the hell you are doing with my data.   Now this is an interesting one for me.  As it stands my understanding is that with data protection laws we have rights to see what companies hold on us (Information access rights) however, when they have run your data via their own algorithm the output (analysis) is theirs and you have no rights to see the output.  Companies will ague that this is their IP and that access to input and output would enable someone else (competitor) to work out what the magic of the black box does and destroy value.  There is a potential conflict here between information and corporate rights.  However, do we care if we get value from the service.


So do I want the right to be forgotten? Probably but nut and sledge hammer springs to mind.

more reading....