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Know your product? No, You're Product!
December 6, 2012 8:06 PM   Subscribe

The European Commission is resisting pressure from US firms and public bodies designed to derail its privacy proposals, which include a limited 'right to be forgotten' that would allow users to demand their data be removed from Internet sites. Facebook claims it would actually harm privacy by requiring social media sites to perform extra tracking to remove data which has been copied to other sites. Google says it's unworkable. Others say it would be a threat to the American right to free speech. Big Data hates the idea because privacy is bad. Meanwhile, advertising may soon follow you from one device to the next -- privately. (Via)

Last year Spain launched legal action against Google demanding the right to be forgotten, but seems to have lost.

The Register has come comments from earlier in the year if you want to know more.

Jeff Ausloos of EFF has a paper on “The ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ – Worth Remembering?” which you can read here.

There's also a Tumblr.

And don't forget, according to European data protection law every individual has the right to get a copy of all personal data a company holds about him or her.
posted by Mezentian (52 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Europeans have some great ideas about data privacy -- the right to get a copy of all of your personal data is something that the US should enforce by law as well -- but the "right to be forgotten" is a mess.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:15 PM on December 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also known as the Greta Lovisa Gustafsson Act.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:19 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think these sites need a way to mark a user as deceased and turn their page into a memorial, if nothing else. If you've ever had someone you know die, and watched their Facebook profile fill with memorial posts and comments, meanwhile having that person show up in places like your friends list or used to make advertising suggestions for you, it's sort of surreally unnerving.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:30 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


But privacy is bad. It is clear now more than ever that privacy has been a massive detriment to society. Look to the lobbyists, torture, the bank accounts and personal relationships of our very own politicians, and you will see privacy is the worst thing ever because privacy has always always always been asymmetrical. They know what we do and we don't know what they do. If anything should be regulated and forced by government it should not be privacy, what must be mandated is absolute transparency. In the past this would have been an outrageous demand, but no longer.

Our right to secrecy is their right to secrecy, but our right to know is everyone's.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:32 PM on December 6, 2012


If anything should be regulated and forced by government it should not be privacy, what must be mandated is absolute transparency.

Your race, gender, sexuality, income, and religion, please.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:50 PM on December 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Know your product? No, You're Product!

Know you're product.
posted by pompomtom at 8:55 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, advertising may soon follow you from one device to the next -- privately.

You would think the economy would be doing a little better given all the tools advertisers have. I wish these guys would spend all their time finding ways to make quality products I actually need that do not fall apart after the second use. Instead, we are getting desperate and arrogant corporate stalkers who try to pass the cost of their technology to the consumer. Advertisers may not be giving me any privacy, but I am giving them all the privacy in the world by ignoring them...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:04 PM on December 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Google is a data company. They will always HATE deleting data no matter what it is.
posted by jcking77 at 9:04 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Music to argue privacy by:
The Saints - Know Your Product (1978)
The Saints - No, Your Product (1978)
posted by Mezentian at 9:08 PM on December 6, 2012


We are all Catwoman now.
posted by Neale at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2012


Pope Guilty: I'm unemployed, and I've got a terrible credit score; no one considers me one way or another. And if they did, and did so negatively, then I ask you, would it have been better for no one to know who took advantage of knowing who I was or, would it have been better for everyone to know who it was that did it?

The last ten years, last twenty, last hundred years have shown us that governments are incapable of reacting to cases of minority violence, not that they do not care, but that they can't react. The last hundred years, with all the ups and downs of political activism, those countless protests, those countless sacrifices, they have shown that the people can react, but only when they know what happened, who did it, who died, who suffered.

Governments know a lot of what happens, but they can't, as a collective, care. Individually, certainly, but structurally, it is hard to tell from their combined actions. No governmental structure react quickly, and as the population grows faster, the cases more diverse and complicated, it becomes only less likely that any organization can keep up. Now, they are right in their insistence on total knowledge of their population, but even if they could predict the crimes, how again, could they ever react, could they ever do anything? Will reading every communication, text, and email of the masses ever matter when the decision is made by a few?

This is a different angle than I made earlier, yes. Earlier I made the point that the government officials and people of high rank, economic and political, can hide in obscurity far better than the people can, and that this has been a historical truism for as long as ever. That remains true, and I insist on it still, but what is also true is that the identification of crimes of merit and the irrelevant is a huge problem, so far totally unsolvable through any centralized, biased, probably status quo oriented, bureaucracy.

But I understand the counter argument.

The world is becoming more dangerous.

It makes sense to fear that if everyone knows you are black, a woman, homeless, homosexual, Muslim, rich, atheist, and/or trans-- then you'll be the next target of those driven by more foolish fears. But it isn't them knowing that is the problem, it is us not knowing. The crazy politicos are right about total surveillance, it will prevent crimes and tragedies, but they shouldn't be alone holding the light, we should all have our own lights on at night. We should all seeing what is happening, so that we all can see it coming, and we all can prevent it.

If only a few of us can see everything then that is all they will do, they'll just watch. If all of us can see, then we can act.

Everyone is responsible for society.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:23 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Privacy is one of the tools the less powerful use to protect themselves.It's a fantasy to believe that knowing

Tell the gay teenager whose conservative parents will disown them for their sexual orientation that what they really need is everyone's sexual orientation connected to their name on the internet. Tell the gay or trans person living in a state where it's legal to discriminate against them in employment or housing that if only everyone was totally open, these problems wouldn't exist. Tell the former prostitute or drug addict that nothing bad will come of her employers, coworkers, or neighbors knowing.

Tell victims of domestic violence who are trying to minimize their internet presence so they can't be tracked by their abuser that if everyone's personal details were available, that would somehow prevent them being stalked or attacked.

Yeah, no.

Sometimes people have damn good reasons to hide information about themselves.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:37 PM on December 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


The argument that Google and Facebook (will) make is that 1) most end-consumers don't pay for gmail, maps, social networking services, and 2) it's not free to develop and run them. Thus, there must be a transaction at some point. And that transaction is selling audience attention to paying clients.

The more data they have, the better their products – advertising tools – work.

Seems quite simple until the data sets starts running into areas that are in the domain of the government to either 1) collect, or 2) protect. In the first instance, you can imagine Europe does not want American companies to capture all it's citizen's data forever, and sell it back to them as services.

Further, you can imagine that if you are European, having your data in the hands of:

• profit-driven American companies,
• during a weak economic period,
• at a time when the American government is losing global power and credibility

may not be the best idea. Especially if that data is going to be retained forever.

It's fascinating to talk to technology people about the pros and cons of Putting All Your Data In The Cloud... For Free! Most technology people seem to operate without malice – they'll remind you software doesn't kill people, that people kill people. Conspiracy theories are from too many late night readings of Ender's Game.

Yet, speak with politicians, and they are terrified of what happens when all of that data is aggregated somewhere else. Has the America of late, and its companies – which refuse to pay taxes in Europe – proven capable and trust-worthy of holding massive data stores on the citizens of other countries? Tirelessly profiting off of that data? I'm not sure it has.

My innate reaction upon reading about the UK's balking in this area has been to write my MP in support of the EU privacy directives.

Data Is Forever. It's a lot like fair trade and WTO policies. The United States likes to make the rules:

Facebook is Good. Google is Good. Look how useful they are. Look how much your people enjoy using them. Look at how efficient we can make these markets. Look at your AdSense return. Look at Big Data flow. How can that be a bad thing?

It's not innately bad. It's how it is used. To simply say "world scary. privacy dead. rich people hide behind offshore funds. terrorism everywhere. let's all become transparent " is a bit, well, simplistic.

The world is more scary and big data can act as a flashlight. I don't think any of the EU directives are against data collection in general. It seems that the EU privacy directives anger Google and Facebook – and the American government, as those companies do pay tax in America. The fact the US government is lobbying is actually the best indication that the EU privacy directive is serving European citizens.

Could you imagine if Sweden lobbied the American government on behalf of Spotify? It would be laughable. That Sweden and Spotify can get anything out of the American government. Yet that is exactly what is going on here – and why is there a surprise that Europe has it's own best interests at heart?

The reality is that The Internet Of Things is coming – a shift combining the information age and industrialisation. The fortunes to be made in that are going to dwarf those made by a search engine-cum-email client, or by a pretty photo book where you can like things. The writing's on the way for Google and Facebook already. Ephemeral champions.

They're not going to disappear, rather they're going to become less relevant. Staid. Narrower. They will be what they are – the postal services of the internet. And the postal service isn't quite as exciting as say... the NBA. Or any other industry that actually creates experiences.

The cataloguing phase of the internet is coming to an end. Now the technology is going to be applied in situ in the real world. It's the end of the distinction between online and offline commerce, for one.

And these companies realise that. And so does the European Union. American companies are trying to reap all the short-term profits they can, whilst ensuring long-term profitability as well.

Whilst the EU is taking a more circumspect, sober approach to the privacy of its people in a time where technology is all going to change again.

It was probably the best said some time ago: Beware of being the roller, when there's nothing left to roll...
posted by nickrussell at 10:06 PM on December 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I watched Eric Schmidt insinuate that Google Wallet might help reduce corruption by reducing privacy for dictators during his talk at Princeton last Spring, TwelveTwo. A lovely fiction for anyone running a data company, but nothing more.

In truth, the financial tools the powerful employ to conceal corruption, launder money, avoid paying taxes, etc. already differ substantially from the financial tools available to ordinary people, meaning Google Wallet could never reveal their private data anyways.

In general, you cannot improve our access to the private data of powerful people by improving their access to our data. You improve our access to their data through legislation. We should for example simply record our elected officials and high level appointees 24x7. Family interactions should remain sealed unless a court wants them, but recorded everything. All their financial activities should simply be published.

I haven't watched this "right to be forgotten" business particularly carefully, but I've no objection to requiring that companies hide or anonymize all data they hold on an individual account upon request.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:14 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


*It's a fantasy to believe that knowing everything about everybody will level the playing field.

(Somehow, the rest of that sentence didn't make it into the comment!)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:32 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


jeffburdges That is why I said we should legislate total transparency, and direct our fight toward just such ends. Equal privacy will never happen, but equal transparency is possible.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:45 PM on December 6, 2012


I'd support knowing everything about everybody because society gains massively more from exposing the corrupt activities of powerful people. In this case, we're talking about exposing activities not particularly linked to corruption by people without much power though, so yeah some privacy is better.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:45 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Equal privacy will never happen, but equal transparency is possible.

False Dilemma.
posted by nickrussell at 10:53 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the moment there are two choices. We have the historical status quo, asymmetrical privacy. This is a position where a minority are capable of total knowledge of the majority, not due to any law but merely because of structural position in the system. Telecommunications corporations know your shit, so does Google, there is no way to effectively enforce their ignorance. With many professions we can have an analogy to a doctor-patient confidentiality, but in nearly all modern cases there is no singular doctor, or singular entity which is handling your traffic. So, we can pretend that we can have some level of privacy but in the end we'll discover time and time again that one part of the population knows substantially more than the rest, and worse yet, the gap will keep widening as technology marches on. Hell, we can already see around corners using lasers, listen through walls, identify authors using textual analysis, chart your movement through the city using face detection on traffic cameras, I can go on and on, and things will keep going on and on.

Then there is the alternative. We accept this consequence of information technology, and embrace it, move on toward something frighteningly different: the criminalization of all secrets.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:14 PM on December 6, 2012


You're making an incoherent and fussy leap that bears almost no connection to reality, TwelveTwo. In reality, we'll learn the important data about powerful people more quickly precisely by protecting the broader privacy of powerless people.

Imagine your typical international summit of national regulators and lobbyists, complete with protestors outside. A critical segment of the meetings are held in private to maximize the influence of the lobbyists, but the protest organizers are spied on to help minimize their effectiveness. It's exactly the exposure of the protestor's data that reduces the pressure they can apply to open up the meeting. That's reality.

We'd expect that our protest organizer created himself a facebook page once during her capricious youth, but deletes it once she starts becoming involved more deeply with the movement. There are various reasons the summit might go through private investigators instead of using local police investigators, maybe it happens in a European city with a Green or Socialist mayor for example. If so, the right to be forgotten directly influences their ability to get into her life. That's reality.

As I said, I'd support total information about everybody, maybe that'll happen eventually, but probably not during our lifetimes. And paradoxically it'll happen much faster if we protect privacy now.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:48 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is what happens when politicians aren't bought and paid for.

However, they have serious problems when it comes to economic policy.

---
Our right to secrecy is their right to secrecy, but our right to know is everyone's.
No it's not. I mean, that's the premise of your argument, and it's just straight up wrong. It's entirely possible to avoid the 'general' lack of privacy if you make an effort, for individuals and for the powerful. The Lobbyists don't need to use facebook, and the CIA director had been discussing torture over gmail instead of fucking his biographer under his desk, he would never have resigned and the FBI would never have leaked all the details to the press.
Your race, gender, sexuality, income, and religion, please.
Pope Guilty: I'm unemployed, and I've got a terrible credit score; no one considers me one way or another.
That's not what he asked. If you're such a fan of transparency, why won't you even answer that basic demographic question? Are you a hypocrite?

Anyway, people like privacy even if they have nothing to hide. It can be for things as unimportant as the fact you like Britney Spears or watched Gangnam Style 100 times. People have an innate desire for privacy. If you tried to pass a law mandating security cameras in every room in everyone's house, it wouldn't pass.

It's entirely possible to have total transparency in government, but not in terms of people's lives (outside of any government work they do) and on the other hand it's also possible to have total transparency of individuals by governments and corporations, without individuals having any access to the secrets of those groups.

Google can read all the documents you have in google docs, all your email in gmail. Does that mean you can read their internal email or their look at the source code for their ad servers? Of course not. Because it's not a two-way mirror - it's a one-way thing. They can see us, but we can't see them.

This is something that should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for five minutes.
posted by delmoi at 1:36 AM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


We should for example simply record our elected officials and high level appointees 24x7. Family interactions should remain sealed unless a court wants them, but recorded everything. All their financial activities should simply be published.

That is a terrible, terrible idea. Who would agree to be submitted to such scrutiny? Who would run for office? Would you? I sure as heck wouldn't.

Democracy's biggest problem right now is the increasingly negative selection of potential candidates. A lot of people are dissuaded of running for office because of the invasive media scrutiny that this involves, to say nothing of the "opposition research" and general mudslinging by rival candidates. In a world which was run as you propose, only very thick-skinned angels and utter psychopaths would run for office. And, unfortunately, there are vastly more people in the latter category than in the former.

We need more popular involvement in politics, not less. A plural, broadly-based political system is unattainable if we impose requirements on public officials which 99% of the population would reject for themselves. Transparency and accountability should be the same at all levels of society.
posted by Skeptic at 1:44 AM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm fairly open with my own personal life actually, nothing much interesting. I'd do it.

"When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property." - Thomas Jefferson

Yes, average people would find the monitoring invasive, but applying it equally should reduce the aggregate damage from politically motivated attacks. I'd conversely expect the classic psychopaths would reveal their illegal activity under such monitoring. Also, our current candidate shortage is mostly financial, partially brain drain elsewhere, but not afaik so influenced by privacy concerns.

We certainly need more popular involvement in politics of course, but that's best achieved through various ideas around deliberative democracy or partial demarchy. We could for example require that all legislation and regulation pass a jury deliberation. Juries would consist of several hundred randomly selected citizens, the large size avoids the usual concerns around juror selection.

I'm advocating 24x7 monitoring, and complete disclosure of financials, only for elected representative and high level political appointees.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:40 AM on December 7, 2012


I'm advocating 24x7 monitoring, and complete disclosure of financials, only for elected representative and high level political appointees.

What about the corporates? They have the real power now.
posted by Mezentian at 2:56 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wasn't really asking and don't care; I was just trying to make a point.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:22 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm fairly open with my own personal life actually

Not everybody is, and often enough for perfectly legitimate reasons (they may have more interesting private lives than you). Also, what you propose wouldn't involve being just "fairly open", but entirely transparent.

I'd do it.

But most people wouldn't. A proposal that would limit high office to the (very small) minority of people like you seems quite self-serving, don't you think?

I'm advocating 24x7 monitoring, and complete disclosure of financials, only for elected representative and high level political appointees.

Bentham's Panopticon was designed as a punishment for criminals, you know. It seems hardly appropriate as a requirement for high office.
posted by Skeptic at 3:54 AM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


We should perhaps pause this derail about recording politicians until the thread matures, but..

Afaik, there isn't any evidence that 24x7 recording would prevent many people from taking office, Skeptic, especially since accessing personal stuff would require a subpoena. We're moving this direction with financial disclosures anyways, certainly Romney's tax returns proved interesting. I'm proposing that additionally the courts could go back and subpoena all Michael Chertoff's past conversations with certain lobbyists after he started selling the TSA those scanners.

Also, I agree with Mezentian that corporations should be forced to publish much more detailed accounts of their activities, especially publicly traded corporations, perhaps such deeper disclosure rules could be tied to the liability limitations for stockholders.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:46 AM on December 7, 2012


Afaik, there isn't any evidence that 24x7 recording would prevent many people from taking office, Skeptic, especially since accessing personal stuff would require a subpoena.

I recommend you make a purely informal poll, preferably including people outside your normal sphere. Do you consider the people who volunteer for reality shows like "Big Brother" or "Jersey Shore" to be representative of the population at large? Would you like them to run for public office?

As for your safety measure:
a) What separates "personal stuff" from the rest? Who would do it? On the basis of what criteria?
b) Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? How do you make sure that the "personal stuff" isn't leaked? Who is going to trust anyone with such recordings?

Frankly speaking, it's a ridiculous idea, and a very different thing from financial disclosure, which makes more sense.
posted by Skeptic at 5:14 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I agree with Mezentian

I like where this is going....

corporations should be forced to publish much more detailed accounts of their activities,

I doubt I am the only MeFite who works in businessy-circles, and sees what goes on, but the bullshit that goes on in and around the existing rules, has made me more of a "burn the fuckers down and salt the earth" kind of anarchist than all my years as a liberal socialist did at university.

The problem with Corporations Law is that it is designed in such a way that it ignores humanity.
These people are fucking you over daily, but as long as they do it so it appears to abide by the rules, so be it.

And it's open.
I have much garr to share. No actionable proof, sadly.
posted by Mezentian at 5:15 AM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The argument that Google and Facebook (will) make is that 1) most end-consumers don't pay for gmail, maps, social networking services, and 2) it's not free to develop and run them. Thus, there must be a transaction at some point. And that transaction is selling audience attention to paying clients.

And banks make money by selling access to your deposits, but if you close out your account, they're still obligated to give you back the full amount of those deposits.

Sure money is considerably more tangible and fungible than data, but I think this is the model we should be aiming for. As long as you're associated with Facebook, Google, etc, they can hold your data and make money off it. Dissociate from them by deleting your account and they have to return your data to you. Simple as that.

It's not like deleting your data suddenly voids all the profits Facebook has made from the period in which they held you data.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:27 AM on December 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Google's Jimenez said that the overall "objective" of the "right to be forgotten" article was a "positive" one and added that the first part of that proposal that gives users the ability to object to their data being held was a good one. "Google agrees with that," she said. "In fact, we already do that.

"The question comes when deleting data placed on a third party that has very little control of what's been done with that data... Some of the scenarios enter well, others are rather unworkable.


Frankly, Google has a point. I don't think they object to privacy concerns nearly as much as they are worried about legal liability. A hypothetical: You sign up for G+ or FB, then use some app. Part of your data is transferred to the app. You ask to have your account deleted, which happens, but the transferred data remains with the third party even if Google or Facebook has notified them. Legally, they could be held responsible (if you doubt this, look at the history of YouTube and legal action there).

If they want to get the companies on-board, they need to come up with solutions that don't look like black holes for legal spending.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:34 AM on December 7, 2012


I'd recommend reading the ' demand their data be removed from Internet sites' link. Facebook hasn't got a leg to stand on when it comes to privacy and as long as the caveat about journalistic, artistic or education reasons to retain personal data like pictures stands and is enforced so that every 3rd-grade celebrity can't boss sites around, I'm fine with a teenager asking that their pics be deleted from someone else's tumblr. A good question is who is going to enforce said caveat.
posted by ersatz at 5:35 AM on December 7, 2012


A "right to be forgotten" is really not possible on the Internet any more than it's possible in real life. People may forget about me in real life, but that's not something I can control. The best I can do is minimize my visibility and let forgetfulness take its course.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:57 AM on December 7, 2012


CheeseDigestsAll, How about a DMCA style system, where participating parties subscribe to takedown notifications? Of course it's not perfect and wouldn't be strictly adhered to. But at least then the advertising (internet) companies will internally differentiate themselves between a company that follows the law and one that does not (e.g. MegaUpload). This is a question of right and wrong, not a question of how to achieve an airtight, complete, solution.
posted by kuatto at 6:08 AM on December 7, 2012


I'm not arguing for any particular system, and I'm pretty sure Google is telling the truth when they set they agree with the objective. (Since they already support profile deletion, letting you have your own data, etc., via account options.)

What they're worried about is not losing any particular user. The cost of a single lawsuit wipes out the value of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of users.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:18 AM on December 7, 2012


I'd hope they envision a system offering less protection than the DMCA, kuatto. In particular, anyone exercising the right should notify each hosting provider individually about all the data they want taken down and demonstrate they "own" the data. We don't want a list of people the internet may not talk about though.

Example : You could tell facebook "untag me from all photos", but you should not be allowed to tell facebook "delete all photos in which I was tagged" since those photos belong to someone else. If your ex-girlfriend records you threatening her, and posts the conversation on her facebook, then facebook may not delete that posting at your request since she uploaded it, but they may untag you.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:20 AM on December 7, 2012


a) What separates "personal stuff" from the rest?

I'd happily hide it all behind a subpoena wall, except that one must assume the justice department itself is corrupt and abuses the subpoena process selectively. It reduces the justice departments selective abuse power if certain categories are public by default, perhaps only office conversations and conversations with lobbyists, staffers, and other monitored officials. It's ultimately a trade off that depends upon how much average people really mind vs. how much the justice department abuses their powers though, not sure.

b) Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

At present, anyone involved in activism should assume the NSA, DCRI, etc. all monitor their conversations anyways, if perhaps only shallowly, but placing the politicians under a much more public microscope can only lead to more effective protections for everyone.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:36 AM on December 7, 2012


As a programmer, this "right to be forgotten" stuff is an absolute nightmare and would make most systems completely unworkable. Even things like if I quoted you on Metafilter and you wanted to be "forgotten", my comment would have to be altered or deleted. That would be a insane.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:43 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


jeffburdges As I said, I'd support total information about everybody

While your boss fires you because of of this or that reason, everyone at the company knows that you were the only one that did not vote like your boss did. So unless, by total information, you include mind-reading, and even then, I'm not sure how this would level the playing field.
posted by romanb at 6:52 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The concept that "total transparency" would magically solve all our privacy problems seems faulty to me. Imagine you had access to Google's vast store of GMail data. What would you do with it? If you're a master-level programmer with access to a huge amount of computational power, you might be able to divine some interesting insights, absolutely. But to the average person, that huge archive might as well be opaque, for all the information he or she is likely to get out of it. Now let's say that instead of a store of emails, which you can at least read, you had all the footage from the UK surveillance camera system instead. Now try to track the whereabouts of a single person over time—it doesn't matter who.

Total transparency would simply move power into the hands of those with the resources to filter and analyze all that data. If we're lucky, watchdog data mining groups would pop up to keep everyone honest, or the cost and usability of data mining tools will improve to the point that anyone could, in fact, keep tabs on whoever they wanted. Even in that best-case scenario, there are still all the other issues people have brought up about the loss of privacy, and why privacy is a good thing even if you have "nothing to hide." But the likelihood of that best-case scenario happening if the corporations and governments of the world threw open their doors and let everyone into their files still seems slim to me.
posted by chrominance at 7:46 AM on December 7, 2012


As a programmer, this "right to be forgotten" stuff is an absolute nightmare and would make most systems completely unworkable. Even things like if I quoted you on Metafilter and you wanted to be "forgotten", my comment would have to be altered or deleted. That would be a insane.
Lawfully though, I wonder what the position is. On Metafilter all comments are copyright of whomever made them, so asking for them to be taken down seems not unreasonable. You're simply withdrawing your right for the site to use your work. Maybe if personal data and the like were seen in the same way--intellectual property of the individual--then deleting would come under pretty regular copyright laws. Of course, I expect that it will only be possible should an individual stop using a site altogether. So once you quite Facebook, for example, you simply stop agreeing for them to use anything you've posted.
posted by Jehan at 7:48 AM on December 7, 2012


I think these sites need a way to mark a user as deceased and turn their page into a memorial, if nothing else.

Facebook, at least, has that, and has had it for years. Perhaps it could be publicized better, but it is there.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:26 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Total transparency would simply move power into the hands of those with the resources to filter and analyze all that data.

And you can make the same arguments about our current open meetings laws. There are lots of supposedly transparent government hearings, but they're really only open to those who have the time and the resources to attend them. Not everyone can spare the effort to keep themselves appraised of even local planning affairs, so even though plans for the proverbial bypass may have been debated completely out in the open, people often end up only hearing about it when they wake up to the sight up bulldozers in their yard.

Transparency is great so long as you're able to participate in it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:31 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


How the hell would you enforce this without requiring that governments have access all data everywhere?
posted by srboisvert at 10:01 AM on December 7, 2012


As a programmer, this "right to be forgotten" stuff is an absolute nightmare and would make most systems completely unworkable.

This may very well be the case, but, this isn't the kind of issue that should be decided on based on how hard it makes someone's job, or whether a certain company's system would have to be rebuilt.
posted by romanb at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Patriot Act can "obtain" data in Europe, researchers say
posted by homunculus at 2:52 PM on December 7, 2012


Facebook Sued Over App Center Data Sharing In Germany.
posted by Mezentian at 5:12 PM on December 7, 2012


On Metafilter all comments are copyright of whomever made them, so asking for them to be taken down seems not unreasonable. You're simply withdrawing your right for the site to use your work.

I believe that on Metafilter you also grant a perpetual license to Metafilter Network Inc, or something, don't you?
posted by pompomtom at 4:00 PM on December 8, 2012


Facebook Ordered To End Its Real Name Policy In Germany
We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously,' a Facebook spokeswoman said in an emailed statement."
posted by Mezentian at 11:40 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Austria wants stronger privacy protections by strapping the European data retention rule. Go Austria!
posted by jeffburdges at 8:09 AM on December 20, 2012


Jobless in the UK to be remotely monitored by government.
Wow, the UK never fails to discover new police state tricks.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:18 AM on December 20, 2012


Thankfully the headline isn't oversaying the matter, no sir. Jobless in the UK are going to be remotely monitored in everything they do at all and in every way by the government and that's just the police state for you.

Grow up.
posted by Jehan at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2012


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