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Re: do we have a right to be forgotten?

From: David Remahl <david@remahl.se>
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2011 14:33:26 -0700
Cc: David Singer <singer@apple.com>, Karl Dubost <karld@opera.com>, Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>, public-privacy@w3.org
Message-id: <86F1B77F-1416-4FAD-B294-CA7562EDE81F@remahl.se>
To: Rigo Wenning <rigo@w3.org>

“Forgiving is not forgetting”, as the adage goes, and I believe that “[forgiveness] by obscurity is no [forgiveness] at all.”

I want to air a counter-point to your argument:

I think that a society that remembers is likely to become much more forgiving, owing to sheer necessity and survival value. The law firm that only hires squeaky-clean candidates will find itself with a labor deficit very soon; the law firm that is willing to forgive earlier transgressions upon evidence of change will be more successful.

Similarly, I think that having information “at the fingertips of everybody” will create a more, not less, tolerant world. If everyone’s transgressions from the normal are visible there will be less pressure to conform. There might not even be a clear answer to what conformity means, when even those that are considered authorities and role models are exposed as diverging or having diverged in the past from the dull average.

The sort of forgetting forgiveness that you talk about is in a weaker form, relying on covering up and obscuring the truth. Under that system, a person that wishes to be forgiven will be under constant threat of exposure/blackmail, given that /someone/ (a human if not a machine) will still remember what happened even if the system has nominally “forgotten”. Compared to a transparent system offering true forgiveness (“I know what you did and I choose to look past it.”) this does not seem attractive. 

I believe that anonymity is much more important in promoting democracy than is forgetfulness. I also believe that the right to remember is more fundamental than “the right to be forgotten”. If you don’t wish to be remembered for who you are, cloak your identity.

/ Regards, David R

On 2011-04-18, at 3:20 PM, Rigo Wenning wrote:

> David, 
> the right to be forgotten is just a functional statement for a thing that 
> leads to a goal: To be forgiven. Humans make mistakes. Imagine how cruel a 
> society would be that would measure everyone of us like high profile 
> politicians. As soon as a persons gets some profile, we are guaranteed to see 
> some nasty things from the past appear (mud throwing). 
> It was Brandeis in Boston (late judge at the US Supreme court) who wrote 
> against those new portable cameras that allowed photographers from the Boston 
> Inquirer (I think was the newspaper) to take a picture of his partner Warren 
> and a woman who wasn't his wife walking and in hand in a park. 
> After some years, the dust had settled and Warren could restart to practice. 
> How would that be today? Marco described it very efficiently: Warren would 
> never ever be able to restart to practice law as somebody would just google 
> his name and the old story would come up endlessly. 
> If this is at the fingertips of everybody, on the long run, it will create 
> pressure to be conform to society; not to have different opinions. Not having 
> different opinions is not really good for democracy.
> So two central values are at stake: The protection of democracy and the right 
> to be forgiven. And they are related (and have some relation to Privacy)
> And yes, I know that Tim forgot the delete button on the web. We are at the 
> beginning of a discussion where we have to ask ourselves in which Society we 
> want to live in. The things we discuss here are - I think- very fundamental.
> Best, 
> Rigo
> On Monday 18 April 2011 20:14:28 David Singer wrote:
>>> Physical disembodiment of information
>> That is new, for sure.  I was talking about the publication of libels,
>> slanders, or invasive material. We've had to deal with handling these
>> issues, as a society, for centuries, and we have mechanisms for handling
>> them.
Received on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 21:41:30 UTC

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