Thursday, August 20, 2009

Week 1 of POOP

This blog turns 2 today, and I believe today is also the 10th anniversary of the armistice in the Great Internet War. (Only one side was strictly held to this truce, of course. Some participants in the other side never did shut up.)

With that, I'd like to inaugurate a new campaign. I call it POOP - Protect Our Online Privacy.

It's about your freedom. Yes, I know the disastrous Communications Decency Act was overturned years ago, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about your liberty to control what happens to your own works.

This is a serious issue for many reasons. One ill-timed Internet post from 15 years ago could label you as supporting the wrong bozo in an election or give your employer a zillion unfair reasons to terminate you. At minimum, it can cause significant embarrassment.

Google has a tool that used to work for deleting these posts from its archive. Guess what? It doesn't seem to work anymore. I think I'm on the seventh try of trying to delete one of my old posts.

And that's not to mention the forged posts that you can't do anything about anymore even if this tool still worked. Google requires you to swear under penalty of perjury that the posts you want erased are yours. It currently offers no mechanism that even pretends to delete forged crap.

The larger legal issue is that I never gave Google permission to archive my posts in the first place. Google now owns YouTube, which is such a stickler about the DMCA that it accepts fourth-party requests to remove videos that don't even violate anyone's copyright. So why does Google violate your copyright by deciding what it can do with your posts? This is as bad as when a social networking site announces it can use your content without your permission.

I'm not the only person who's had this problem. Complaints about Google's failure to let people remove their own posts abound.

And I don't give a shit what anyone says about making Google's archive "incomplete" or "destroying" part of Internet "history." Doctors can't blab patients' medical histories. Lawyers can't reveal things clients tell them. So why are Internet posts considered special enough to be allowed to flap about cyberspace and infringe on the public's privacy?

Because Google won't voluntarily respect the public's rights, there ought to be a law. The law ought to require Google to let you remove your own posts - without having to give a reason. It would also require Google to let you remove forgeries that were made in your name.

POOP will continue until this matter appears to be satisfactorily resolved.

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