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Should the Internet Learn to Forget?

Facebook is becoming harder to dodge everyday. Facebook Connect, which is the service that connects third party websites with a user’s Facebook account, is available…

Facebook is becoming harder to dodge everyday. Facebook Connect, which is the service that connects third party websites with a user’s Facebook account, is available on almost every website that requires registration from the user (think ‘Log In with Facebook’). This is an advantage for the users because it simplifies and expedites registration, and it’s beneficial for the website creators because they are provided with detailed data of their user. As a result, almost all your online activity is documented on Facebook.

Yesterday, TechCrunch contributor Andrew Keen emphasized the need for the Internet to forget data. In a conversation with Alexia Tsotsis, Keen explained that this over-sharing epidemic is going to affect our real lives in drastic ways. When you go to a dinner party and everyone on the table already knows your first and last name, relationship status, and profile picture, it is a scary moment. Facebook has integrated itself so deeply in our lives that this has begun to feel natural.

Zuckerburg’s child-like obsession with identity created a safer Internet space. There was a radical shift from anonymous users on AOL sending creepy messages to identified users interacting with people they knew in real life. Keen argues that decrease in anonymity has made the internet a safer place, but since users have become overly comfortable with providing their true identities, they show no hesitation before posting intimate details of their lives that are basically set in stone thereon. The ability to forget is natural in human beings, but as we document details of our lives online, it is easy to be reminded about the time that was. for example, it is easy to imagine an increase in the number of couples getting back together because they have a strikingly good memory of details that they would’ve forgotten if recollecting wasn’t as easy as scrolling time a timeline. Their ability to forget and move on has been hampered by their online presence.

Time magazine published an article titled ‘What Happens To Your Facebook When You Die?’ in 2009 when people who had passed away had active profiles that popped up in the ‘People You May Know’ sections. Facebook responded by saying they wanted to keep these profiles on Facebook so that friends and family of the deceased can still remember the person. The Facebook team believed that erasing all the memories would be cruel and deleting a profile would mean treating the user like he or she had never lived. Keen argues that that this is exactly what needs to be done — the Internet needs to forget. The Internet may be an amazing tool to archive books and movies, but archiving personal profiles is morbid.

The debate seems intense and overwhelming but your individual opinion should drive your argument. We think there should be a cool way to design your digital afterlife so you can keep your blog, but not necessarily your Klout score. To find out where you stand ponder on this: would you prefer erasing your history on the web or would you want your Facebook profile with all your pictures, status updates and wall posts to live on after you?

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