Social Media

The erasable internet: gone and forgotten

By Mark Leiser |

January 4, 2014 | 5 min read

A very loose collection of cyberlaw predictions for 2014. More social media lunacy. The cloud gets a whole lot larger. The Internet starts to erase itself, much to Google’s chagrin. Facebook implodes. For the first time in the history of 3D printing, a 3D printer gets printed by a 3D printer. Everyone locks everything on the Internet down. Legal challenges to Cameron’s porn filters. The Daily Mail continues to advocate for the blocking of every offensive website, except its. Intellectual property lawyers continue sending letters demanding things be removed from the Internet, highlighting their complete misunderstanding of the Streisand effect.

#5: An erasable internet: gone and forgotten?

Theorists and tech columnists have long hypothesised about what the next phase of cyberspace will be. Having moved rather seamlessly from Web 1.0 to 2.0, the question is often asked about what future form will develop. Will it be an internet for Glass-holes - people who wear Google Glass recording everything and storing it all online? Or will it be a semantic web where everything is connected to the web including all of your household appliances, making everything far more efficient through interconnection? Thanks to revelations about just how easy it is for the government and private corporations to listen in on practically everything you do online, the erasable internet is starting to have resonance among those leery of everything being stored and analysed by a computer algorithm somewhere. This is what happens when most pressing concern is figuring out who isn’t tracking your data and who isn’t listening in, rather that who is.

Thanks Snapchat. The erasable app developed by the company that turned down a $3bn buyout from Facebook might actually be onto something. At the end of 2014, we might just be witnessing the development of a parallel internet - an everything internet where all of our data is stored forever, and another erasable internet living in both harmony and conflict. Interestingly, some theorists have developed the view that this new erasable Internet is more human like, allowing for us to mimic human behaviour more closely by building in the most common behaviour - forgetting. Now, where was I?

Oh yes, the erasable internet. Snapchat allows people to send images and videos to friends with an element of control. The image deletes itself after a short amount of time controlled by the sender. Yes, people can take screenshots. Yes, there was a massive security breach last week where millions of user names and passwords were published online. But this shouldn’t take away from the fact that the next wave of apps will be ephemeral-data based and this shift could be a significant change in the way we store and share information. Erasing data can be as significant a concept as saving it.

Remember that ‘erasing data’ is something that internet companies don’t like to do. It gives them a less valuable profile of you with which to sell to advertisers. Remember, it took Facebook until 2012 to figure out a way to delete your photos off its servers and Gmail didn’t even have a delete button for its first two years. Targeted advertising paid for services that we all rely on, but as the Snowden revelations showed us, we are wondering whether all of these ‘free’ services come with too high a transaction cost. Problems with potential employers, crazy exes, and the repercussions that come from a ill-timed tweet or an embarrassing photograph have all taken their toll on our relationship with data open to the world. Right now, people have put their online persona on social media sites which in itself restricts free speech.

Who would be the big loser if the erasable internet took shape as predicted? Well, Google of course. With society moving toward ‘not tracking’ and from data collection into data privacy, Google will have to adapt to this new space between big and secret data.

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