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The End of Forgetting 329

Posted by kdawson
from the you-can-always-say-i-don't-recall dept.
Hugh Pickens recommends a long piece in last week's NY Times Magazine covering a wide swath of research and thinking in the US and elsewhere on the subject of the perils to society of recording everything permanently, and the idea that perhaps we ought to build forgetting into the Internet. "We've known for years that the Web allows for unprecedented voyeurism, exhibitionism, and inadvertent indiscretion, but we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files. The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is, at an almost existential level, threatening to our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew. In a recent book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, the cyberscholar Viktor Mayer-Schönberger cites the case of Stacy Snyder — who was denied a teaching certificate on the basis of a single photo on MySpace — as a reminder of the importance of 'societal forgetting.' By erasing external memories, he says in the book, 'our society accepts that human beings evolve over time, that we have the capacity to learn from past experiences and adjust our behavior.' In traditional societies, where missteps are observed but not necessarily recorded, the limits of human memory ensure that people's sins are eventually forgotten. By contrast, Mayer-Schönberger notes, a society in which everything is recorded 'will forever tether us to all our past actions, making it impossible, in practice, to escape them.' He concludes that 'without some form of forgetting, forgiving becomes a difficult undertaking.'"
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The End of Forgetting

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  • I got hit with a login when I tried to use the link in the summary but was able to surf to this link [nytimes.com]. You'll get a splash advertisement for the Economist or something but I'd wager most people would tolerate that more than logging in.
  • Posting is forever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:15AM (#33028134)
    This article made me wish I had posted this as Anonymous Coward...
    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      but changing your name is easy
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:43AM (#33028364) Homepage Journal

      Don't worry, the internet does forget, and it forgets some of the best stuff, too. Back when I was an avid gamer thare was a very funny parody of Blue's News called "Yello There". A fellow names "Kneel Harriot" (who I later found out was a woman named Janet) updated it daily, and as far as I know there's only one instance of his site in the Wayback Machine [archive.org] at archive.org; "Kneel" and I often cross-posted, me using his character in stories at my site, the now-defunct "Springfield Fragfest" (which last time I looked was now a porn site). The only one one of his pages not missing is the one from the day people surfed to Yello There and found the Fragfest, and surfed to the Fragfest only to find Yello There.

      There are a lot of the old sites that are gone without a trace. Most of the Fragfest is gone. My other site (also now defunct), mcgrew.info, is completely gone as well, although I think I have it in a hard drive on a shelf somewhere.

      Somebody must have confused the internet with rock 'n' roll, because the internet does indeed forget. It just remembers a long time sometimes.

      • by Shoeler (180797) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:40AM (#33028974)
        You know what occurred to me after reading the summary and your post? That it's not the forgetting part that needs to change. Indeed, to fundamentally change data retention policies across the ENTIRE INTERNET seems, at best, a dumb hopeless idea.

        However, to change the perception people have when they find that you don't have an un-scarred past seems to be a good and righteous thing to challenge.

        We as a society have this idea that keeps getting trashed that there are people out there who are as good as we want them to be. In my 36 years of experience, I've found only a small handful of people who are completely honest about who they are and were. In general people try to practice this selective forgetting so that they can "reinvent" themselves.

        Instead, why don't we just learn to not hype people to unachievable heights and realize they're as human as we are and made as many mistakes as we all did?
  • logs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blai (1380673)
    /thread
  • By erasing external memories, he says in the book, 'our society accepts that human beings evolve over time, that we have the capacity to learn from past experiences and adjust our behavior.'

    But what if there is no negative response to your behavior? I mean, in the situation quoted in the summary there was no illegal activity. A high school teacher went to a party and got drunk. Nothing illegal there. Sounds like she had some fun (the horror!). So let's assume no picture was taken and no picture was posted on MySpace and she wasn't terminated from her teaching position or dropped from her enrollment in teaching. What negative response would she receive that would stop her from ever doing that again?

    None.

    Because there shouldn't be a negative response to that. This is some scarlet letter bullshit where no laws are broken but you've offended someone's morals even though it was on your own time and therefore you should be fired. This isn't about forgetting on the web, it's about managing your public image. Some people are slow to catch on that if it's on the internet, the world can see it. So don't put your dirty laundry on the internet. There are plenty of bumps on the social side of things. Plenty of embarrassing social gaffs on sites like MySpace and Facebook but for things like forums and Slashdot it's great that everything is permanently remembered for reference in the future.

    Really this is just the old Facebook privacy issue and their total abuse of their clients. Balancing features with privacy is nothing new -- it's just on a much much larger level now.

    • by demonlapin (527802) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:23AM (#33028192) Homepage Journal

      So don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

      This is pretty easy. The problem is making sure other people don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

      • by camperdave (969942) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:37AM (#33028306) Journal
        This is pretty easy. The problem is making sure other people don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

        This could be especially problematic as surveillance becomes more and more popular. That, and the increased capacity to crack security (either through botnets, or exploiting weaknesses in algorithms)
        • This is pretty easy. The problem is making sure other people don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

          This could be especially problematic as surveillance becomes more and more popular. That, and the increased capacity to crack security (either through botnets, or exploiting weaknesses in algorithms)

          ... or something a bit more mundane, like your friend's drunk buddy who has a cell phone camera.

      • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:43AM (#33028362) Homepage

        Genghis Khan asked to be buried without markings. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything across their path, to conceal where he was finally buried. After the tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were massacred, and then the soldiers who killed them were also killed.

        You may consider a similar approach to facebook privacy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Tejin (818001)
          Sounds like you could find the tomb of Genghis Khan by following the bloody trail cut by the funeral procession and looking near the pile of slave bones.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The feedback and learning I got from those incidences, is to avoid those career paths entirely.

      Even the most fucked up details of my personal life getting outed wouldn't destabilize my job. I'd be slightly embarrassed, but it wouldn't otherwise affect me.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:42AM (#33028360)

      Some people are slow to catch on that if it's on the internet, the world can see it. So don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

      That's fine, except that I may not be the only one posting stuff about me.

      In the given example, the teacher could have been very careful not to put her drunk party photo online. But if someone else at the same party was less thoughtful, it could have had exactly the same effect, but completely out of her control.

      Even more worrying is the possibility of people deliberately destroying another's reputation. There's no shortage of people in this world with a grudge against someone else. It's quite easy to imagine an example where someone fails to get a job because of something someone has posted about them. It needn't even be true; a prospective employer isn't going to take time to give you the benefit of the doubt when there's plenty of other candidates. And the person in question may never even find out what it was that lost them the job; they just don't get to the next interview stage.

      And then there's the mistaken identity issue. Having googled myself a few years ago, I know of the existence of at least four other people who share my name (I have a fairly uncommon name). They're all quite different people and most of the time it's obvious which one of us a given web page is about. But not always. And especially in the age of 140 character tweets, it would be very easy for someone to take a reference to one of us and mis-interpret it as referring to another.

    • by cyber0ne (640846) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:04AM (#33028550) Homepage

      So don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

      The key problem here is that, in cases such as the given example, it's not dirty laundry. The social issue at hand isn't so much the retention of information, but the ability (or, in this case, inability) of people in society to properly parse and understand that information. A company would seriously be fooling itself if it thinks it preserved some kind of integrity by not hiring someone who occasionally unwinds with friends at a party. They already have employees who do that, they just ignore the fact that they don't actively know about it. The fact that they can't distinguish between the two is a problem.

    • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:07AM (#33028596)

      This isn't about forgetting on the web, it's about managing your public image. Some people are slow to catch on that if it's on the internet, the world can see it. So don't put your dirty laundry on the internet.

      Wrong.

      This isn't about managing your public image, and it doesn't matter if you don't put your dirty laundry on the Internet. If she hadn't posted that picture, somebody else might very well have done that, and the consequences would have been the same.

      The problem isn't that this picture was posted. The problem is that the school board over-reacted to something that really had absolutely no bearing on her ability to teach.

      The problem is that we're seriously blurring the line between public and private... Between our professional time and our personal time... Between our professional occupations and our leisure occupations...

      We've got some kind of new Puritanism going around. You have to uphold the professionalism of your position 24/7. There is no room these days for being human.

      Obviously we don't want our high school teachers showing up to work drunk. We don't want them drinking on the job. But she's a human being, and entitled to do whatever the hell she wants to in her off time.

      But now she can't. Because somebody might snap a picture of her getting drunk. And somebody might post that on the Internet. And then she might get fired from some other job.

      • by Bluey (27101) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:52AM (#33029162) Homepage

        The problem isn't that this picture was posted. The problem is that the school board over-reacted to something that really had absolutely no bearing on her ability to teach.

        Also wrong.

        While I agree about the general point your making, this woman should not be your torchbearer for this cause. The "Drunken Pirate" picture was just one example of many issues this student-teacher had, and not even the most egregious. Bad classroom management (yelling "shut up!" at the students), unprofessional conduct (telling them about an encounter with her ex-husband while on a date with her boyfriend), blurring personal-professional boundaries (telling her kids about her MySpace account), poor grammar skills (while teaching an English class!), inability or unwillingness to prepare for the lessons, making up answers to students' questions, etc.

        The picture wasn't even the main thing the school took issue with. Nor was its "Drunken Pirate" caption. Along with the picture, she posted a public note talking about problems she had with her supervising teacher as the real reason she wouldn't apply at the school after completing her student teaching. Reading the judge's ruling [washingtonpost.com] (or even just the findings of fact) on this case puts it in a whole new light.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:11AM (#33028630)
      How many times do you hear a statement like, "he never drinks," being used as a euphemism for, "he is a moral and upstanding citizen" or something to that effect? Americans are being conditioned to think that going to a party and using drugs reflects negatively on a person. If the media is to be believed, then having a beer after work is something that you need to hide from your boss, friends, and family, and the only people who are going to join you are lonely and depressed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        But, it does. It's one thing to toss back a couple cold ones from time to time and quite another to be engaging in regular drug use. I didn't used to appreciate drug testing, but then it occurred to me that I really don't want to have to pick up slack for somebody that's not taking things seriously. If you really think that drugs have no impact on work life you really aren't very well informed. At bare minimum it's affecting ones sleep and the ability to concentrate, beyond that there's plenty that can go w
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        How many times do you hear a statement like, "he never drinks," being used as a euphemism for, "he is a moral and upstanding citizen" or something to that effect?

        That reminds me of an old joke. A newspaper reporter is interviewing a man on his 100th brithday, and he asks "what do you attribute your long life to?"

        The old man says "Well, first, I don't drink. I don't smoke, and I never let a drop of alcohol pass my lips. I go to church every sunday and of course I don't drink. I eat a balanced diet and I nev

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:11AM (#33028636)

      The problem isn't that we need to forget, the problem is that we need to *forgive*. Before this "memory" we were able to live in a fantasy/delusional world where high school and college students were all saints and boy scouts. Now, for a younger generation, party pics are there to remind them that they weren't. I bet the very same people who denied this teacher her certificate did the exact same thing when they were young. But they want to pretend (to their colleagues, to their kids, maybe even to themselves) that they didn't. And what better way to do that than to take it out on some poor girl whose only sin was growing up in a time where there are more cameras and an internet around?

      We need a lot less sanctimony and a lot more "So he/she partied in college...but who didn't?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Fuck. That. Shit. [xkcd.com]

      Seriously though, I say what I feel like saying, and if somebody has problems with it, I'll find somebody else to work for. If somebody refuses me a certification of some kind that I have otherwise earned because of some personal 'morality' they have, I'll sue the shit out of them. And if it doesn't work, I'll still be more satisfied for not having to live a lie in order to pander to any petty social dictators who aren't happy unless everybody conforms to their narrow-minded standards.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:19AM (#33028160)

    What needs to change is the social practice of judging ppl too harshely, not the storage value of the internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yaa 101 (664725)

      But because that won't ever change and with more people getting born, they will use their elbows more and more to be able create their own space on this globe.
      So the opposite will happen and people will judge each other more harsh.

      So we better make sure that there won't be instruments to enable that behaviour instead of trusting the judgement of mankind.

  • by wjousts (1529427) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:19AM (#33028162)
    Maybe this kind of thing will cause a shift in people's opinions. Perhaps when people realize that everybody has made bad decisions in their life, everybody's got too drunk and done something stupid and nobody is perfect, the world will be a better place for it.
    • by saihung (19097) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:39AM (#33028316)

      No. What's going to happen is the self-righteous goody-goody people in our society who never drink, never screw, never do anything wrong at all are going to get even worse about judging those of us who know how to have a good time. And the rest of us are going to stay silent and pretend to agree, because we're petrified of being judged ourselves by puritanical pricks who seem to be in charge of everything.

      • by wjousts (1529427) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:52AM (#33028450)
        You're one of those perverts aren't you?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dargaud (518470)
        ...so, make it easy to sue the puritanical pricks who refused employment because they saw one pic of you getting drunk on facebook. the problem should correct itself over time.
      • by quickgold192 (1014925) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:06AM (#33028586)

        Who says that people who never drink, never screw, and never do anything wrong don't know how to have a good time, you self-righteous, judgmental prick?

        • by hedwards (940851) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:13AM (#33029372)
          I wish I had mod points available, that's probably the most insightful thing said in this whole thread. I think it's always interesting how screwing up ones body with excesses in drink and partying is somehow more acceptable than enjoying things that aren't known to be damaging to the body.

          I'd chock it up to the fact that drugs are not something which people with a healthy, fulfilling life do. I'm sure some libertarian is going to argue that it is essential liberty, but it's really not. People wouldn't take the risk of drugs screwing up their lives if they were living a life that they really valued. Papering over that with drugs really isn't something that's going to change that.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ovu (1410823)

            There are so many reasons to do any particular action in life. Several people I know who use drugs do so to achieve altered mental states - call it self-exploration. So where do you draw the line? Should I look down my nose at you papering over your life because you drink coffee? Does intent matter?

            People should stick to determining what is most healthy and fulfilling for their own lives & let others do the same.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cyber0ne (640846)

        the self-righteous goody-goody people in our society who never drink, never screw, never do anything wrong at all

        Man, if only that were the case. Then they would be nothing more than an evolutionary anomaly that would take exactly one generation to correct.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by alexhs (877055)

        [...] the self-righteous goody-goody people in our society who pretend to never drink, never screw, never do anything wrong at all [...]

        You had an empty set. Corrected for you.

      • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:53AM (#33029168)
        You won't get rid of us in a hurry. So you had better focus on fixing the invasion of privacy. It's going to be a difficult area to fix, especially the balance between exposing the hypocrisy of those in power, and protecting the rights of the poor.

        But hang on a minute. It isn't the puritanical pricks who are posting those photos; I personally would never post any picture of anyone in a public place without their permission (if it's evidence of illegality, go to the police.) It's...the people who "know how to have a good time". And who are the people who post inappropriate images out of a desire to bully or mock? Check. Perhaps someone needs a slight values reassessment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I doubt it -- people should already be aware that everyone makes bad choices and that nobody is perfect. The problem is that, at least in America, people are becoming less and less tolerant of "bad choices." When I was a freshman in college, we were warned not to allow pictures of us at parties to find their way onto the Internet, because an employer might see those pictures and not hire us. It is not as if employers are unaware that people go to parties when they are in college, nor is it the case that
      • by wjousts (1529427) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:50AM (#33028428)

        It is not as if employers are unaware that people go to parties when they are in college, nor is it the case that employers are unaware of what happens at college parties...

        But that's kinda my point. Initially people are going to get screwed by it, but eventually employers will realize that they don't have a single candidate that doesn't have something embarrassing about them online and they will have to learn to accept it. No candidate is completely clean, so they'll have to stop being so judgmental.

        • Except that not everyone goes to parties while they are in college; I knew several such people when I was an undergrad. The problem is that employers are giving preference to those people, and the existence of those people is not going to change any time soon. It does not help that the media conditions us to think that "he doesn't drink" is equivalent to "he is an upstanding citizen."
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ThePangolino (1756190)
      The problem is that reactions are often disproportionate on both directions. A distant friend of mine was afraid of how much I knew about him simply by typing her name on a search engine thinking I had been following her for years. It took me a while to explain and make her understand all this information was freely available on the internet. See this example of extensive research published in a French magazine [le-tigre.net].

      The truth is random people do not expect anyone they don't know well to know anything about th
    • by cowscows (103644) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:52AM (#33028448) Journal

      Not on its own, we'll have to wait until some more of the old people retire/die. For high school/college age kids right now, having pictures from a party on the internet generally isn't a big deal. Even if there isn't a really stupid one of you, there's probably at least a few photos of your friends being dumb that you've seen, laughed at, and gotten over.

      But that's a very unfamiliar phenomenon for people who grew up without the internet, and some people honestly just don't like things that are new to them, and don't much feel like changing their mind. Fortunately, those people get older and eventually no longer hold positions of authority, and progress slowly moves forward. We see this gradual change happening at almost every level of society, from serious things like tolerance of homosexuality, to more petty things, like dress codes at work. It's not a perfect system, but it's pretty hard to stop.

    • Maybe this kind of thing will cause a shift in people's opinions. Perhaps when people realize that everybody has made bad decisions in their life, everybody's got too drunk and done something stupid and nobody is perfect, the world will be a better place for it.

      We're already seeing a shift, but in the wrong direction. People are becoming less accepting of flaws, not more.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:22AM (#33028184)
    Using Google's advanced search to filter out old crap is a major advantage when searching for technical solutions. It means you only get recent fixes / hacks / workarounds / patches. Not all the old stuff that addressed problems with beta versions from 2005. This is one area where Google's search algorithm falls down - by ranking pages with more links, they promote old stuff over new stuff. While that is useful sometimes, I wish there was the option for a decay (or timeout) function into their page-rank algorithms to reward contemporary information.
  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:26AM (#33028218)

    If the internet remembered everything to begin with, the invention of deletion would be the revolution.
    What use does remembering have if you can't distinguish what is important?

    Nature is fully capable of remembering, yet it has built us to forget.

    Mother nature knows best. Let go of what doesn't matter. Forgive and forget. We need to trust in the process (or whatever) that created us. Wanting to retain everything is simply being greedy, and no good will come of it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SharpFang (651121)

      Distinguishing between what is important and what is not can be achieved also by attaching weight metadata to any information. That weight can be correlated with the age of the information too.

      Nature has no Moore's Law built into it.
      Storage capacity is following in close steps behind volume of created information.

      Mother Nature has limited resources. Human genome can be gzipped to under one gigabyte. Human brain uses compression so lossy it allows for recognition, but not of anywhere near to precise duplicat

  • not enough recording (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:29AM (#33028242) Journal

    The problem is that not everyone has been recorded on the Internet doing something which might meet the disapproval of others, even though everyone has done such a thing. Once no-one is able to cast the first stone, everyone's equal again.

    The winners are only those who aren't caught - usually by chance rather than design - and those who have the influence to erase history.

    Perhaps one day a student union of a first tier college will be enlightened and recommend that all its members take one photo of themselves naked cuddling a blow-up doll and holding a bottle of vodka. If this practice spreads like the spawn of Satan that was Facebook, suddenly employers will find that all their candidates have the naked-sheep-vodka pose. Demand > supply of Chrisian virgin angels. Attitude readjusted.

    • I vote for real shock value: Blood Orgy. Stab a hole and fuck it. Inter-species copulation with amputees, bondaged asphyxiation, while something like Preschool Tea Party Massacre thrashes away providing the rhythm to gag to. Yes... yes, that will do nicely. Yesss.

  • the long view (Score:2, Interesting)

    by praxis22 (681878)

    I realise this is all very well for me to say, but I've always known that this was the case and acted accordingly. On a simple level, I've never said anything online that I wouldn't say to my mother or I wouldn't be prepared to stand behind in future. There is no such thing as anonymity on the 'net, never has been. That's the reason why I don't have alt's. There isn't anything to gain.

    I do recognise however that most of the non-geek audience won't have thought of this, and may be bitten, but them's the brea

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why should employers be judging people for going to a party? Look at the first paragraph -- the teacher was fired because a photo of her drinking at a party was "encouraging drinking" and might be found by her students. We are not talking about something horrifying here, we are talking about an adult having a drink and the terrifying possibility that children might see adults drinking.

      The problem is not the teacher, nor is it the fact that the teacher posted the picture online. The problem is that peo
    • by turing_m (1030530)

      Though Dr Aleks Krotoski does say that in the future, people who do not have a complete record, warts and all, will not be taken seriously, because they are not fully three dimensional people.

      It will work the same as it ever has. The average person would rather vote in an axe murdering psychotic provided that he didn't get caught and says all the right things, than a normal person who has said some things that most people disagree with, but is otherwise a good guy. The sociopaths who take pains to cultivat

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124)

      I realise this is all very well for me to say, but I've always known that this was the case and acted accordingly. On a simple level, I've never said anything online that I wouldn't say to my mother or I wouldn't be prepared to stand behind in future. There is no such thing as anonymity on the 'net, never has been. That's the reason why I don't have alt's. There isn't anything to gain.

      I do recognise however that most of the non-geek audience won't have thought of this, and may be bitten, but them's the breaks IMO. The expectation of anonymity is no excuse for acting like an idiot. That said my hormones had already raged. Though Dr Aleks Krotoski does say that in the future, people who do not have a complete record, warts and all, will not be taken seriously, because they are not fully three dimensional people.

      You are completely missing the point.

      Most of us have gotten drunk at some point in time. Most of us have done something at least vaguely embarrassing at some point in time. Most of us have at least one photo of us doing something stupid that we aren't terribly proud of. None of that should preclude us from getting a job.

      My wife went to the local county fair on Friday. They had a stage hypnotist. She volunteered. She was making a fool of herself on stage - dancing around like Lady Gaga, fighting non-exi

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:30AM (#33028252) Homepage Journal

    'without some form of forgetting, forgiving becomes a difficult undertaking.'

    Forgiving should never be based on forgetting.
    Forgive, yes - give another chance, people change, mistakes of the past should not be repeated.
    Forget? - This is a guaranteed method to repeat the mistakes of the past.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drooling-dog (189103)

      Maybe so, but without the forgetting, forgiving is always provisional. You're forgiven today, but non necessarily tomorrow...

      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        Maybe so, but without the forgetting, forgiving is always provisional. You're forgiven today, but non necessarily tomorrow...

        Under those circumstances, I'd say you haven't been forgiven at all then. When you forgive someone you stop blaming them. They may still be responsible and you may still remember but you no longer harbor any ill will towards them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by silentcoder (1241496)

          >Under those circumstances, I'd say you haven't been forgiven at all then. When you forgive someone you stop blaming them. They may still be responsible and you may still remember but you no longer harbor any ill will towards them.

          But that only speaks on an individual basis. You're forgiven by the people in your life now - but the same picture haunting you twenty years down the line at a job interview is being assessed by people who saw it the first time five minutes ago. Because the incident is unforgot

    • by kubitus (927806)
      is the pre-requisit to prevent cover-ups!

      . selective denial of access will be a powerful instrument of influence:

      "we know that you did this - if you do not want others to know, better do this!"

  • Stigma (Score:4, Funny)

    by ewg (158266) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:30AM (#33028260)

    I'd be appalled if anyone found out I used to program in Smalltalk.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Golden_Rider (137548)

      I'd be appalled if anyone found out I used to program in Smalltalk.

      I had to program in COBOL at one point. Luckily, I managed to destroy any evidence.

  • by Joehonkie (665142) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:36AM (#33028294) Homepage
    Maybe it's more of a problem with our two-faced, overly moralistic society. Instead of "forgetting" that other people started off young and exhibitionist, we should "remember" that many of the people bitching started off the same way too. And maybe those people should forgive other people when they realize they have their own faults. Or even better, not judge people according to their own personal moral codes.
    • Hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by copponex (13876)

      The issue isn't one of morality. The issue is that the vast majority of people do not follow the rules they espouse. That's why people hate the internet "memory." It exposes them for who they are, or at least who they used to be. The immediacy of information connects us with the past, and can help us make better decisions for the future. CIA coups used to be considered conspiracy theories, but now anyone can look at the source documents for themselves. News stories about what someone reportedly said are rou

  • But all data. We store data without regard for it's lifetime, filling up harddrives which then need to be backed up. In some cases, we have data which has existed for 15 years or more. We dare not delete it, because it might someday be useful, but in the meantime it takes up disk storage space which costs extreme amounts of money to maintain.

    What we need is a built in expiration date, known to all. When the file is written to disk, it is done so with a default expiration date. When that date comes, it

  • by markdj (691222) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:46AM (#33028386)
    What if you were arrested for shoplifiting in a small town where the newspaper publishes the daily arrest record online? Later you are convicted and your sentence includes getting your record expunged once you serve your community service. However, the record in the paper of your arrest is not. The town doesn't have the power to tell the paper to expunge your record. A background check might find that arrest, but not evidence of the outcome. Now you could lose jobs, security clearences all for something that is not supposed to exist. When your record is expunged, you are supposed to be able to answer no to having been arrested, but the internet says otherwise.
    • Not to mention the problem with "false positives". Someone with my name(which which not being rare isn't super common either) who came from a town less than 50 mikes from where I grew up and is only 2 years older than me has been arrested twice. I am always worried that a potential employer will find this and assume it was me. The more I go on in life the more I realize the immense value of having a super common name, it makes it a lot harder for people to locate you. If I ever have a son I am going to
    • What if you were arrested for shoplifiting in a small town where the newspaper publishes the daily arrest record online? Later you are convicted and your sentence includes getting your record expunged once you serve your community service. However, the record in the paper of your arrest is not. The town doesn't have the power to tell the paper to expunge your record. A background check might find that arrest, but not evidence of the outcome. Now you could lose jobs, security clearences all for something that is not supposed to exist. When your record is expunged, you are supposed to be able to answer no to having been arrested, but the internet says otherwise.

      This isn't a problem unique to the Internet however, especially in a small town.

      There's usually lots of fanfare when somebody gets arrested. It'll show up in the paper, folks will gossip about it, maybe the local radio station will mention it, maybe it'll be on the evening news. It's a big deal. Especially if you're at all prominent or if the crime is at all interesting.

      There's usually a hell of a lot less fanfare when somebody is acquitted. You don't usually have nearly as much gossip if someone is fou

  • What we need is to ensure you can say anonymous online, or at least not have to use your real name. Online identitites are easy to reinvent, real ones aren't.
    • What we need is to ensure you can say anonymous online, or at least not have to use your real name. Online identitites are easy to reinvent, real ones aren't.

      No. What we need is to stop judging people so harshly every time they act like a human being.

  • the cyberscholar Viktor Mayer-Schönberger cites the case of Stacy Snyder -- who was denied a teaching certificate on the basis of a single photo on MySpace

    .jpg or it didn't happen. And no I have not soiled myself by having a myspace account.

    I tried google images and I'm having trouble figuring which one I wouldn't hire. All of them? The woman posing with several different dogs? (how many does she own, anyway?) The woman singing in front of a well known german political party symbol? The woman wearing a pirate hat drinking from a "goodbur" cup? The woman posing (fully clothed) in a tutu? Then there's about ten other "Stacy Snyder" whom are smiling way t

  • In traditional societies, where missteps are observed but not necessarily recorded, the limits of human memory ensure that people's sins are eventually forgotten.

    Um, no. In traditional societies, sins are remembered long past the lifetime of a person due to gossip, and continued gossip, and then oral history, their sins are immortalized in song, and eventually when people learned how to write, those songs were written down. To reinvent yourself in those days you used to have to move to another town. The only thing the Internet has done that is new is allow almost everyone on the planet access to every small town's gossip.

  • I do not agree with the outcome, but this has happened often enough that one would think most people would understand that you should exercise some restraint on your posts.
    Most HS kids know that they need to control whats seen on their FB pages, and at 25 I would think this woman would have understood that also.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:04AM (#33028558) Homepage

    I am technically generation Y. I'm right on the border with generation X, so my first exposure to the Internet came at 1995 when I was in middle school. There is a marked difference between the older half and the younger half of gen Y in how we view the Internet. The younger half puts it all out there without any attempt to make it hard for busy bodies and ne'erdowells to connect the dots or find them. When people act like this culture of letting it all hang out online is something inherent to the Internet, I take great offense to that because I am old enough to remember how mainstream culture first interacted with the Internet and it was with a hell of a lot more sense than we often have today.

    The fact is that society is getting dumber. Systematically dumber. I know this not just from watching how my own generation is starting to behave, but from listening to how my dad recounts how law enforcement **used to be**. He was a cop in the post-Vietnam era. He retired in 1996 and has very little good to say about how cops behave today. No common sense, no independent thought, no questioning whether following orders actually helps the rule of law. It touches everything. Our society is getting dumber, more legalistic and less capable of sensible behavior.

    It's also getting a lot more judgmental. I think this is a natural reaction to people seeing all of this stuff that went on behind closed doors, but the fact remains that either people have to learn how to compartmentalize behavior (like disregard a politician's past, if they have what it takes to be an effect, informed leader) or actually dramatically reduce the visibility-by-internet of society.

  • I mean, we can forget about war and all the bad things in life, because its not like we have painting and books depicting what happens or anything. Because we dont have a video of Bill Gates saying we only need 64kb of ram....

    I think this guy got stung because he was stupid, but is now clever enough to realise he can make some money out it by becoming a "Expert on forgetfulness and the solidarity of the state of the internet". Que interviews with newspapers and tv stations.

  • Why don't we just get rid of them? I mean who really needs to remember what everyone did long ago. That's SO yesterday.

  • The original article, and most of the posts here, can be used to illustrate another important issue: if one makes snap judgments based on partial information, it is easy to be misled. Following the links all the way to http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/Decision%202008.12.03.pdf [washingtonpost.com] (the judge's decision) reveals that the plaintiff failed to achieve a satisfactory rating during student teaching, which contributed to her not getting a teaching certificate. Snyder and Mayer-Schoenberger failed to includ

  • So this makes me think of my academic background. When I was first in college back in the early 90's I didn't do well. (I didn't care because I had no expectations of anything beyond a BA so who cares?) Anyway I got older and got bit by the physician bug. So 10 years after I got my BA I went back to school to take all of the premed course work. (I hadn't taken any of it as an undergrad) I was older and had all my shit together so surprise surprise I did extremely well on it and also did well on the MCAT. S
  • What, 100+ comments and no mention of Spider Robinson's "Melancholy Elephants"? Are all the sci-fi fans still recovering from comic-con?

    http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html [spiderrobinson.com]

  • Does this remove all the tagged photos on other people's accounts? What about posts you made on their wall? The results of tests and surveys you took?

  • Just because we don't archive something doesn't mean everyone else wont. Facebook, google, the NSA... It's all going to be around permanently and there's nothing you can do about it, so I'd rather have it out there for everyone to see rather than build some BS system that gives people a false sense of security.
  • The Internet indeed does forget. Even the WayBack Machine can't help with everything.

    Race results, runs, swims, triathlons, etc, quite often are only displayed through a database lookup. The caching engines that are simply following links have little hope in finding content that require POST style lookups.

    I've had some success finding results from "wayback" if I can remember the race name and it happened to have it's own website (which not all races did in the mid 90's - some still don't). But for those

When Dexter's on the Internet, can Hell be far behind?"

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