Monday, 2 May 2011

A movement to allow erasure of internet information

MIT's Technology Review has an article on further developments in the "Right to be Forgotten" movement in Europe. The article says that a "growing group of privacy advocates in the U.S. and abroad want the Internet to be written in pencil" (allowing for erasure).  They want internet users to have to opt IN before anyone could track their data in the first place. Spain is just the latest country that has become involved in the movement, when its Data Protection Agency ordered Google to remove hyperlinks to articles about 90 people. The article reports that in the U.S. an online-safety organization called Common Sense Media argued that "Web companies should develop tools that make it easier for young people—or their parents—to completely opt out and delete this information." They wanted, they said, an "Internet Erase Button."
There are 2 sides to the "internet erase button" or Right to be forgotten" argument though. There are sticky questions about freedom of the press and freedom of speech; when does the right to privacy outweigh the right to information?  And the information that is available on the internet can also make all sorts of academic research much easier and less expensive. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article  on how women and men behave differently in looking at sexual content on the web - research that was accomplished by analyzing a billion web searches by men and women. The research was done by computational neuroscientist Ogi Ogas who has published the book A Billion Wicked Thoughts

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