What's the community's opinion on "The Right to be Forgotten?"
This is kind of a question for Tildes as well as a discussion topic on Social Media more generally. For context, "The Right to be Forgotten" is an idea being kicked around in international law and human rights circles. It's kind of a corollary to the "right to privacy" and focuses on putting some guardrails around the downsides of having all information about you being archived, searchable, and publicly available forever and ever. It's usually phrased as a sense that people shouldn't be tied down indefinitely by stigmatizing actions they've done in "the past" (which is usually interpreted as long enough ago that you're not the same person anymore).
This manifests in some examples large and small. Felony convictions or drug offenses are a pretty big one. Another public issue was James Gunn getting raked over the coals for homophobic quotes from a long time ago. Even on a smaller scale, I think plenty of young people have some generalized anxiety about embarrassing videos, photos, Facebook statuses, forum posts, etc. that they made when they were young following them around the rest of their lives. For example, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez had people try to shame her for dancing to a Phoenix song in an amateur music video. An even darker version of this happens with people who might be the victims of targeted harassment. Often doxxing happens by people digging through peoples' histories and piecing together clues to figure out who they are or at least narrow down where they're from, where they work, etc.
In the context of Tildes, this would basically be a question of how do we feel about peoples' comment history lingering forever? Do we care about/agree with this "right" in principle and if we do, what should be done about putting it into practice?
The root of the issue is the existence of archives of data about yourself that is 1.) searchable, 2.) publicly viewable, 3.) under someone else's control, 4.) forever. Even if the ability to delete comments exists, it's infeasible for any individual to pore over the reams of data they create about themselves to find the stuff that might be problematic. The solutions would revolve around addressing any one of those numbered items. Unfortunately, hitting any of those has upsides and downsizes. Some examples:
Some people like being able to look back on old contributions and having them get deleted after a period of time (hitting problem #4) would be a bummer unless there is a system to selectively archive stuff you want to save from atrophy, which would be a function/feature that would take a ton of thought and development. What's more, there is no point in just saving your own comment if everyone else's stuff is gone because comments without context are indecipherable. It could work in a more selective way, so rather than a blanket atrophying of posts, but then you have the context issue again. Someone you were having a discussion with might choose to delete their entire comment history and there goes any sense of logic or coherence to your posts.
We could address the searchable bit by automatically or selectively having posts pseudonymed after a period of time. But in a lot of cases a pseudonym won't work. People tend to refer to each other by username at times, and some people have a distinctive enough style that you could probably figure it out if they're well known and long-tenured.
That's just some general food for thought. I'll yield the floor
There's a lot to digest here, so I won't hit on everything. But in general, I think that the "right to be forgotten" is a good idea in concept, but flawed in the real world. It allows people to hide things they've said or done in the past and can easily be abused by bad players. I think that once something is out in the world, you shouldn't be able to take it back just because you changed your mind 5 years later.
But then again, I also believe that just because someone said or did something stupid once, it doesn't mean they're forever a bad person. You can learn from your mistakes and change your viewpoints. Obviously there are people like Harvey Weinstein who are just irredeemable monsters, but I think people like that are the exception. That doesn't seem to be the most popular viewpoint at the moment.
The right to privacy is a whole different ball of wax, but I do think that people have a right to know what information is being collected about them and how it is being used.
But do we have the right to take that information back from someone like Facebook once we've given it to them? I'm not sure. I honestly can see both sides of the argument on that one. On the one hand, the user presumably willingly gave that information over. But on the other hand, a lot of people see it as their information, so I understand why they want the ability to have it removed from Facebook's (or whoever's) servers.
That's something that we need to work on educating people about. Most people don't know that when they post little details online, it can all be put together to paint a detailed picture of one's life. When I was in school, we learned about how to stay safe from "stranger danger". Maybe we need a similar thing in modern schools to teach about the dangers of posting too much information online.
Well not necessarily. If family posted a picture of me to FB, which I would never consent to, FB has data on me that I never willingly gave.
The other part of this is tracking embedded into websites that isn't made clear. Take re-captcha for example. When you click on re-captcha, you consent to google's tracking. Most do not know this. Technically by clicking they "willingly" chose to be spied on. But they didn't really know that clicking a button meant this.
FB and Google also have a lot of trackers in apps and websites. You can be tracked by these without ever visiting Facebook or Google. I assume by simply installing these apps or visiting these sites you somehow automatically accept the terms of service, thus you are "willingly" handing over data. But few people actually know what they are consenting to, or that they even consented to anything.
I agree in principal. But as an analog example, if you and I went on vacation and took a bunch of photos of us together, then I made copies and gave them to a friend who wanted photos of me to hang on their wall, do you have a right to ask my friend for the photos back?
My answer would be no.
This subject is complicated and there are so many different nuances and "what ifs" to cover. But I'm glad we're (both you and I and the collective we) are having the conversation. It's extremely important.
You're right. Very few (if any) companies make their data collection policies clear. We definitely need legislation that limits what sites can collect and requires clear, human readable disclosure of how that data is used.
On your analog photo on the wall example, there are differences, especially in scale. A lot of data privacy arguments are about scale (I can give examples if you wish).
The people that can see the photo on the wall are very limited. It would just be people who enter that room, friends of friends and for a limited period of time.
On Facebook, anyone can see the image and they can save it and do what they wish with it. As I don't use FB myself, I don't know what the exact privacy settings you can use are, but even if you use strict ones, people can repost the image with no privacy settings, or even put it on another site for all to see, the image is out of my (or anyone's) control completely.
Not to mention Facebook's own analysis and (ab)use of the image. They could perform facial recognition and look at EXIF data such as location and date taken (which a printed image does not have). They then use this info to slowly piece together who I am, to build a "shadow profile" of me. They don't look at one image, they look at many, over time, with lots of EXIF data, some might not even be taken by friends (perhaps I'm just in the background of a selfie). They can analyse text. If you post an image with me and mention my name in the post, they can figure that out, they can look at when you talk about me to other people. They build this profile of me up. And not once did I consent to Facebook doing it.
There is also the possibility of a data breach, which is a very common thing for Facebook. Facebook (and the internet) allow a much greater amount of people to access and share the image (greater scale than a photo on a wall). I suppose it is possible that someone could take a photo of the photo on the wall and then share it, but that is much more unlikely and can be done by a much smaller amount of people.
If you gave a photo that included me to hang up on a friends wall, I would hope that you would ask me first and I would want it to be a mutual friend. But that's just me.
Side note that doesn't answer your point properly: I try to avoid photos of myself because of this reason. Especially if it will be upload automatically to google photos or apple photos or whatever. I also specify after every photo not to post it on social media or share it with out asking me. Maybe that makes me annoying but idc, I still have some friends. No idea if they respect it though, as I don't use social media. I also try to use my phone for photos where possible, so at least I know what I send and can strip the EXIF, I don't have google play so no concerns with cloud thingos.
super off topic: in the example of printing a photo, watch out for clauses in the terms of service that hand over the copyright of your images to the printing company. And the privacy practices of the company.
I do agree this is a very good topic to be talking about.
You're right about the scale being a factor. I hadn't considered that. I suppose that Facebook (or any other company) having millions of pieces of data to mine makes every single piece more valuable. They can probably extract much more data from a single photo than you or I could because they can compare it to the millions of other photos they have and extrapolate more data from there.
Quick example: There's a store in the background of the photo. I can look at the photo and know, "Oh, this photo was taken near a Walgreens." But Facebook can probably say, "They were near a Walgreens. It was most likely this one based on the GPS data embedded the photo. And people who shop at this Walgreens respond well to this ad for toilet paper."
So maybe that was a bad example, since scale is a factor. Interestingly, I found this article from just this week about how Facebook tracks images.
To contrast, perhaps having so much data makes more data worth less, as they already have a lot of information and may not learn much from an image. Although I do think you are correct, a lot of data analysis is about multiple things pointing at the one thing and Facebook doesn't mind storing an extra image even if it just confirms an existing belief, digital storage is cheap.
Your example isn't the best, but it gets the point across. The last sentence "And people who shop at this Walgreens respond well to this ad for toilet paper" is a bit odd, but I get what you are saying. Facebook would also use a lot more data than just an image to piece info like this together, they may combine it with chat history or location services / history. Or even a store loyalty card, to see your purchase history.
As for the article you linked. I did not actually know Facebook used IPTC coding to track. So thanks for showing me this. But it doesn't exactly come as a shock.
afaik stenography in images is destroyed by lossy compression and almost all websites use it, including FB.
I am opposed for two reasons:
It conflicts with having memories, and
History is worth recording.
I can't get over the idea that the "right to be forgotten" is a weapon of revisionists who want to selectively erase portions of history. Once someone's action gets "forgotten", there is now almost no evidence that they have performed that action. Not only does this have legal ramifications (if that action is referenced in a court of law, for example), but it conflicts with peoples memories of the action. Now that the action has been officially "forgotten", memories are fake news.
Suppose that Saudi Arabia wants their involvement in 9/11 to be "forgotten". If "we" have the right to be forgotten, then Saudi Arabia could make a valid claim that because the public does not have definitive proof that they were involved, all mentions of "Saudi Arabia" occurring within the context of "9/11" should be removed.
There is also a third point in opposition to this "right":
As an example, this comment could be copy/pasted to literally any digital storage device in the world. If I decide that I don't want this comment remembered, do I have the means to erase it from all of those storage devices? No. Do governments have the means? No, do to storage existing in a plethora of jurisdictions.
Not to mention non-digital physical storage.
All in all, this "right" comes down to people "wanting" their actions to be forgotten. There is no basis for this want transforming into a "right". It is all just rhetoric designed to pull people in with the thought of "rights are good. I haven't heard of this right, but all rights are good".
Completely agree. We have enough issues as is with astroturfing and hailcorporate type content flooding social media via puppet accounts. Now adding a "right to be forgotten" layer would essentially allow public figures to "take back" all the terrible things they have said or written.
No offense but it sounds like you're running with a lot of assumptions based on the semantics of the term without actually reading up on what it's about.
The right is about giving people some control over the dissemination of potentially stigmatizing information about them and creating limits around what services that control data about us can do. Nobody is talking about some MiB flashy thing to wipe people's memories away or erasing court records. Talking about Saudi Arabia or non-digital storage are ridiculous.
From your OP:
From the Wikipedia article, in the "Current Legal Frameworks" section:
I want to draw attention to the "to have certain data deleted" part of that. That is the part that will absolutely be abused to hell and back. It is also the part that is completely and absolutely unenforceable.
All 3 of my points are based on the immediate ramifications of the above text.
Please stop putting ridiculous assertions into my mouth.
I said memory would be preserved, even when news articles were erased. The memory would no longer have evidence to support it. (And do you think that no news would be erased? Not even celebrity rumor news? Not gossip about political candidates? Not accusations about public figures? If you believe that those are safe from this "right", then I have an Eiffel Tower to sell you.)
Please stop putting ridiculous assertions into my mouth.
I did not say this. I said that people would make claims in court, based on their memory of factual events, and become unable to cite sources that the events in their memory occurred. The erasure of information that could become evidence will be extremely problematic.
It is not about reading whatever gets written by supporters or detractors. It is about taking the base assertion (that information can be deleted at request (hopefully with restrictions, like a court order)) and following the ramifications of that assertion.
This "right" provides the power to remove data from the public record. It will be abused by every asshole who can afford the legal fees. Even if most judges are sensible, it only takes one judge to cause tangible damage to the public record.
I am opposed to a clear danger to the public record.
I don’t know what you think happens in court already. You realize eye-witness testimony almost never has hard evidence behind it right? You likewise must realize that most minor crimes have statues of limitations on them because the judicial system recognizes that a.) evidence goes stale and b.) people change over time and punishment long after the fact has no meaningful effects on restitutions or deterrence.
This would be just like the 99.999999999% of human history before we had databases that can log and searchable archive everything. I’m not seeing the dystopian “abuse” here to functionally have things be ever so slightly more like they’ve literally always been.
Someone requests deletion of something you’re supposed to delete it. If they don’t delete it you have standing to sue. What’s unenforceable about that? Again, you’re wrapped up in the semantics of the term “forgotten” that you seem to be missing the actual point.
There's a wikipedia essay about this topic, as well as a page on meatballwiki that discusses the ins and outs.
One of the key things is you must "go away" in order to affect your "right to vanish".
Public figures, of course can "go away" too, but they cannot have their cake and eat it too. We haven't invented memory holes yet, and we don't rewrite history.
On a personal level, I use TweetDelete to delete tweets that are older than 3 months. For me, it's more of the fact that I look back at the past and see opinions that I may not necessarily agree with any more at the best, and I've said something horribly cringey in the past that I'd rather not spend a whole week or so being reminded by my brain over and over.
I do use Twitter, and a few times I share personal things as an outlet for venting - not in some angry way and definitely not at people on Twitter, more like talking about concerns in my own life or in certain communities.
When I had reddit, it kept all my old comments (as you do) and going back like 8 years when I was a teenager and trying desperately hard to appear funny on the internet - like yeah, I'd rather not see that and I'd rather not have dumb "and my axe!" comments associated with me. When I used a tool to do the same with twitter but with reddit (I think it was called shreddit?) honestly I felt a bit relieved to not be bound by comments of the past. But maybe that's just me and my stupid brain that obsesses over the slightest embarrasing moments in the past.
I personally hate this whole "keep everything forever" model of the internet where all our data lives eternally and is never gone. Considering nothing positive has really happened with all that social data of the past, I guess my point is why do we even need to keep such data for more than, say, 4 years online?
I support the right to be forgotten. If you said something of significance that someone liked or disliked enough then they should save themselves a copy, not just merely bookmark it. For information collected by companies that isn't public (eg a google location history or something) I see no reason for not having the right to remove it. For things you post publicly though I'm not really sure. Perhaps if the post / info is x years old you can delete it? But people can already delete posts / comments on social media (or at least hide them from the public).
Your pseudonym idea is quite interesting. You would have to make the pseudonyms unique to each post, else if your pseudonym was found out on one post, there goes your anonymity. There would also need to be a large enough list of pseudonyms so that names don't get repeated commonly. Things like @HanakoIsBestGirl could be swapped out too. But swapping out mentions like if I just type "NaraVara" might get problematic, especially with usernames that are just normal words. If someone named themselves "the" it would cause problems. And of course it is likely that on the backend we would not be anonymous. It will never be perfect. But even as an opt in it could be interesting.
WRT your pseudonym idea, I strongly disagree. One should consider before posting something publicly whether or not they want to post under a pseudonym or not, or not publish at all.
Generally, one should be mindful of what they do and say in public. This whole right to be forgotten thing sounds like a right to be irresponsible to me. Stuff published about you that's involuntary and is not relevant to the public should be removed, and that was already available. But what you do in public, or crimes you commit &c should not be forgotten, and a right to have these stuff swept under the carpet betrays the integrity of a community given the million ways it can be abused.
Petty crimes are crimes, and they should totally follow the committers. Same with public statements, anything done in public. It is the opposite of private, it is the place where you're before everybody else.
Now I acknowledge the challenges the new tech and new media brought about. You can be photographed almost anywhere against your will or without being asked for consent and without you ever being noticed, and that information can become available globally. But then, when you walk a big city's main street, you're potentially seen by thousands of people. Whether the two are comparable is a discussion.
WRT the concept itself, the right to be forgotten that is, it is an impossible target. Essentially this is a right that requires destructive action by others in order to be satisfied, and it impinges others' rights. It breaks too many things, like archival or journalism. I find it not only futile or impossible, but also generally harmful for this reason.
We had archives and journalism before we had databases.
Not even the legal system holds to this standard. Records get expunged and there are statues of limitations on prosecuting many minor crimes.
Even if “in public” means a group chat you had with 4 friends that leaked because the platform you had it on has poor security practices?
It’s actually far less likely to be abused than the status quo is. Analyzing reams and reams of data doesn’t come without cost. Regular people are unlikely to just find actionable information about powerful entities just because the signal/noise ratio is so bad. The people who can actually sift, though, are the ones who have the analytics resources at their disposal to go digging into your past.
The Harvey Weinsteins of the world already have this right. They can pay to make inconvenient evidence disappear. The ones who don’t have it are his victims, who can be silenced through blackmail because their abusers can hire private eyes to go digging into their past to find dirt on them.
Your argument is not that different from people saying “if you’ve done nothing wrong you don’t need a right to privacy.” It just empowers the types of systems where people have to break some rules to get by. And then they will selectively enforce those rules on their enemies.
I said except involuntary. Such leakage is involuntary.
It is so obviously different that I won't bother defending it further. That one can become a victim of some crime should not mean that they should be able to erase their pasts, dirty or not. That is a dangerous nonsequitur.
The very fact that entities are holding onto such information indefinitely makes it more likely. Data that exists is data that can be cracked or leaked. Plus, the fact is most information is innocuous in isolation, but it can be correlated with other data sources to be compromising. It kind of endangers individuals to keep information about them floating around forever, opening themselves up not just to doxxing, but also identity theft.
This is just begging the question then. I pointed out how they're connected by the potential for abuse I highlighted from having indefinitely searchable archives of minutiae. Baldly asserting that these dangers are irrelevant because you want to protect the right to hoard data (and I mean "hoard" in the "irrational fear of letting go of things" sense) is the dangerous nonsequitur, if anything. The only concrete concern you've expressed is that crimes should follow people around forever, long after they've actually done time for them, even though research indicates this only makes recidivism and crime rates worse, which just seems like a thoughtlessly retributive ideal to me. I'm not really seeing the social cost you're trying to argue will arise from some things being in line with how they were in the '90s.
I'm especially not seeing how any of it justified giving the Mark Zuckerburgs of the world insanely outsized amounts of power. It's pretty naive to think that just expecting people to exercise better judgement is going to actually address any of these issues knowing what we know about how money and power puts thumbs on the scales of who gets to deploy gossip and information and how. When most people have no idea what can be done by correlating random tidbits from myriad random data points, this is basically just saying that using the internet to communicate at all means you forfeit any right to anonymity or privacy.
Those who willingly post their own lives online shouldn't come complaining later, but for children or others who got caught unwittingly by some snap-/film-happy parent or friend there should be recourse. My parents posted 0 pictures of either themselves or me, and there's nothing featuring my name on the entire web. I loved them a lot, but had they not been that considerate I'd have thought less of them for sure.
Also, I board at a private place where "portrait photography" on the establishment's grounds gets you expelled, which would mean a nasty financial loss for parents. This to allow us to go about our business without fearing embarrassing shots that could turn up later. The kind that comes here isn't the sort that would do that, but it's a nice thought in principle. Privacy is more important than most of those idealistic "human rights" people come up with and nobody respects anyway.