VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

The Evolutionary Shopper | What They're Doing Now

The Undocumented Life: Is the “Right to be Forgotten” a Sign of Things to Come?

The recent landmark ruling which granted Europeans the “Right to be Forgotten” from Google searches, is perhaps the first time we’ve ever seen so many people want to be anonymous. It’s a far cry from the desire so many Americans have to know everything about anyone, and to create quasi-personal memorials via social media sites.

 

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which passed down the ruling, is essentially trying to erase the last 25 years of the Internet, and limit access to people’s personal information, including their past.

 

The Right to be Forgotten is a fascinating choice of words. It defines the Existentialist philosophy that is so distinctly European and the polar opposite of the American craving for recognition and identity. Thanks to the Internet, every nobody can be somebody.

 

European CourtThe European Court of Justice in Luxembourg made the landmark ruling against Google’s search capabilities and that Europeans have the “Right to be Forgotten.”

Of course, a regulation such as the “Right To Be Forgotten” would never pass in the United States,where the First Amendment protects freedom of information. But at what point does that information go too far?

 

The controversial revelations about the NSA provided by Edward Snowden has made it all too clear that there is no private life and the internet does not forget.

{{ “Is it possible that one day we will all beg for the undocumented life – will anonymity become a commodity?” }}

National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander insists that the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records – not to mention other kinds of personal information gathering – is critical to protecting the country from future attacks.

 

Whether we like it or not, we are all willing participants now in what I call “the documented life.” It’s as though we were all participating in a kind of free-form reality show. In the span of a single day we are tracked and recorded, from the cup of coffee we bought this morning (with electronic debiting), to our walk to work (traffic cameras at intersections, private property cameras, random cell phone video) to our various search engine browsing throughout the day and social media postings. Retailers collect our data via RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and GPS tracking.

 

Is it possible that one day we will all beg for the undocumented life – to be able to block not only corporate and government spying, but to withdraw entirely from the rampant “oversharing” on the internet? Will anonymity become a commodity?

 

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'They're going to  say I aided our enemies' - video interviewEdward Snowden believes that despite the ongoing privacy breaches with the NSA, it’s still possible to be anonymous. “We don’t have to ask for our privacy, we can take it back,” he said in a recent talk at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York.

As of this week, Google, Inc. has received over 40,000 requests from Europeans who are hoping to delete the results that come up when their name is searched, and in the days since the court ruling, hundreds of how-to guides published on “how to delete your digital life.”

 

thoughtsA vintage diary belonging to a teenage girl, reveals her various thoughts and experiences. Today, the internet is everyone’s public diary.

The issue perhaps, is not so much that we wish no one had seen pictures of us drunk or found out that we were born in Schenectady and not South Hampton, but that the Internet has completely eclipsed our ability to live singularly and quietly. The unobserved life, a life that is ours alone and of no concern or interest to strangers. Private moments that no matter how significant or insignificant, are allowed to organically disappear.

 

“History,” wrote Winston Churchill of his now long-gone, non-digital world, “with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.”

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