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Permanent vs. Editable Records

Mar 30 2011 Published by under info sharing, silos

In Foggy thinking about the Right to Oblivion, Peter Fleischer raised several great questions about the data that we share. Fleischer hits the nail on the head.

Does too much user control lead to digital anarchy? If we are allowed to delete our online contributions at will, won’t that undermine the very fabric of this emerging society? We need to think about this as we restructure our online world from industrial models to user-driven ones.

His questions and discussion explore provenance, permanence, disputes and arbitration, degrees of affect (like when someone else posts information or a picture about you), potential obligations to delete, expire, or anonymize certain personally identifiable information, and more. It’s a messy, fractal, and emerging world, but not yet anarchy (in the sense of lawlessness or enforced authority)!

What we share online differs from what others may release about us, such as formal authorities like the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, when we control access to information provided by others online, such as with Facebook Connect, we should understand how and when we can disallow it.

Revoking consent and deleting our information once we’ve shared it remains a murky gray area. What happens to our data on the other saide? Does JibJab delete our profile when we disable their Facebook Connect application at Facebook?  We don’t know. Maybe.

In many cases, it’s clear where we should be able to delete or edit our own information… even if it disrupts the experience of those who have come to rely on it. And in those cases where editing or deleting is not appropriate, it should be clear that this is the case and why.

We don’t expect to be able to delete emails we’ve sent out to others, although we sometimes wish we could.  Other time our contributions *need* to become part of the public record. For instance, at the Information Sharing Work Group, contributions are tracked for purposes of determining the provenance of intellectual property. The challenge is to develop metaphors that align expectations with the underlying mechanics, and to use both when appropriate to the underlying human relations.

What is the nature of a permanent record? What makes them so? Who makes them so? Is it permanent and immutable? Or are there authorities who can change it?  Why or why not?

Similarly, what are the ramifications of a transient or mutable record? Why would it be either way?

Facebook posts, for example, are deletable but not mutable. So, while you can remove content that’s changed, you cannot change content, which others may have commented on. Facebook doesn’t explain this–it’d probably be confusing to the average user–but it makes sense once you stop to think about it.

So check out the post and think about it.

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