Why do websites disappear?

pageHeaderTitleImage_en_USIn a recent article in First Monday, Dr. Francine Barone and Professors Zeitlyn and Mayer-Schönberger asked why websites disappear, taking with them at times valuable information archives that benefit society. Rather than because of the most obvious reasons – political and legal pressures as well as lack of funding – they discovered that often times the reasons for disappearance of valuable online information archives are combinations of multiple factors, including a shift in interest and focus of the individual who maintained the site, often as a labor of love. Based on this complex dynamic of multiple factors, the article makes a few recommendations what could be done to preserve valuable information archives.

An “intellectual godfather of the right to be forgotten”?

200px-Original_New_Yorker_coverIn a comprehensive, detailed and balanced article (“The Solace of Oblivion“, September 29, 2014 Issue) in the NEW YORKER on the right to be forgotten, how it came about, what it entails and what it might mean, Jeffrey Tobin extensively quotes Professor Mayer-Schönberger, after calling him “one the intellectual godfathers of the right to be forgotten”. Well worth a read.

What exactly is the “right to be forgotten”?

TheguardianAfter the European Court of Justice’s decision to reaffirm the “right to be forgotten” in its decision against Google, many around the world have felt the need to comment. Some have gone as far as predicting wide-ranging censorship, or the end of free speech. Humbug, says Professor Mayer-Schönberger, whose book “Delete” provided one of the first comprehensive arguments in favor of digital forgetting, and explains in an op-ed (“Omission of search results is not a ‘right to be forgotten’ or the end of Google”) in the GUARDIAN why the European Court of Justice decision is not instituting a true “right to be forgotten”, nor does it spell the end of Google.

“Do I Have the Right to be Forgotten?”

BBC_Radio_4Professor Viktor Mayer Schönberger was featured in a BBC Radio 4 documentary this evening entitled “Do I Have the Right to be Forgotten?” In the program exploring the digital footprints that ordinary individuals establish over time, he explained that large companies such as Google collect all the search queries we ever type. Having this ever growing tranche of data about us stored digitally, we fail to have the ability to forget, and in turn lose a great deal of freedom – ironically the very freedom that newspapers and search engines claim to be protecting. Digital memory gives those who have control over digital images of us the power to manage our history.

Digitales Vergessen – eine Debatte

DIEZEITDie ZEIT Online nahm das Erscheinen der deutschsprachigen Ausgabe von Professor Mayer-Schönbergers preisgekröntem Buch “Delete – Die Tugend des Vergessens in digitalen Zeiten” zum Anlass einer Debatte zwischen den Redakteuren Karsten Polke-Majewski (pro) und Kai Biermann (contra) über die Bedeutsamkeit, Notwendigkeit, und Umsetzbarkeit eines digitalen Vergessens.

“Delete” reviewed in NATURE

natureStanford professor Fred Turner reviewed Professor Mayer-Schönberger’s recent book “Delete” in NATURE, and liked it. He concludes by saying “If Mayer-Schönberger is right – and I’m convinced he is – then the old Kris Kristofferson song might be true after all: in the future, freedom could be just another word for nothing left to lose.” The full review is here.

New book “Delete” published

Top academic publishing house Princeton University Press has just released “Delete – The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age“, Professor Mayer-Schönberger’s brand new book on the importance of human forgetting, the shift due to digital tools towards comprehensive remembering, and the dire consequences this shift may entail for everyone of us, and for society at large. Going far beyond conventional privacy and data protection arguments, “Delete” argues that undoing forgetting may limit our ability to forgive each other and ourselves, and to constrain our ability to act and decide in the present as we remain tethered to an ever more detailed remembered past.

Not content with just sketching out the challenge ahead of us, in this book Professor Mayer-Schönberger evaluates various options to confront the challenge, and – concluding that no silver bullet exists – also suggests a creative solution: building the ability to forget into the digital tools we use. Labeled “expiration dates” for personal information, this approach is not a technical fix to the ills of comprehensive remembering, but is rather intended to remind us humans time and again that most information is linked to a particular temporal context and thus loses its relevance over time.

Chapter one is free to download.