Monthly Archive:January, 2010

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Right to Forget?

It appears that France is considering legislation that would require online data to be deleted/removed after a certain amount of time.

Ignoring the pragmatic implementation issues, assuming a government could actually make this law work — the debate raises several very interesting policy and culture issues.

-How long and how far should information about our former actions follow us?

-If it’s true, should anyone be allowed to say it? What if it’s their opinion, but it’s quite terrible as it concerns you? What if it was true at some point in the past but may not be so anymore?

-Are we, as an Internet culture, moving to being more forgiving of each other’s transgressions, because, hey, who doesn’t have some unfortunate party pictures available somewhere on the Internet?

-Or, are we, as an Internet culture, moving to a policed information state, where we have a right to control where our reputations are made and modified. Where we get to protect ourselves from the information related to our former transgressions, because, hey, at some point we all should be able to move on, overcome, and forget our past misdeeds.

-And how does this debate take into consideration the reality that most people find horrifically negative facts about a person to be much more interesting (and therefor higher on the search results) than any (and possibly all) counterbalancing healthy, normal, well adjusted facts?

It’s questions like these, and more, that have kept me for so long from being completely open with my identity on this blog.

Lately, though, I can’t help but feel that the ship has sailed. I feel as if the Internet has evolved to a place where I have 2 binary options — I can stay fully engaged in the culture and join the transparency, or I can continue to seclude myself and slowly remove myself from and miss out on many of its newer benefits.

It’s a doozy.

[UPDATE: And, the same day I wrote this, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg claimed Privacy is no longer a social norm.]

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A Legal Perspective on Inter-Personal Relationships

Often, when things go wrong between colleagues, friends, or family, one party says to the other, “I’m so sorry, but, I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t mean to do it. Right? It was an accident!”

This statement is a plea for forgiveness, and a hope that all will return to normalcy.

In US common civil law, this statement would be a defense against intentional misconduct. But, it would be useless against a claim of gross negligence and negligence.

Gross Negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.

Negligence, rather, is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care.

In our inter-personal relationships, I fear we are often too binary — looking for intentional harm or assuming that without intention, the non-harmed party must be innocent.

But if we adopt the US common civil law standard, if we are careless with those we should be caring for, then we are responsible for the harm we cause them by our carelessness.

And, if (for whatever reason) we consciously and voluntarily disregard the need to use reasonable care in our relationships (for example, when the other party has asked us to pay attention to something that hurts them and we choose not to pay attention to it in our treatment of them), then we are grossly negligent, and we are even more culpable for their harm than if we just failed to exercise reasonable care.

If 2009 taught me anything, it was that I needed to stand up for myself when people (professionally, personally, and in the family) were harming me without intention. On accident.

They didn’t mean it. They were not bad people. I love them.

But, at the end of the day, even if the other party doesn’t mean it, if their actions harm you, they harm you. And, we all have a duty to avoid negligence (and gross negligence) when it comes to care of ourselves.