In this article, we argue in favor of a macro-societal approach to protect people from the potential harms of personal information online. In the tension between information and privacy, “the right to be forgotten” is not an appropriate solution. Such a micro, individual-based answer puts the burden of protection on each person instead of on external entities that can abuse such knowledge. The personal responsibility to delete personal data is challenging because of the leakage of data that happens through the connections we have with others, many of whom do not share the same privacy preferences. We show that effective deletion is almost impossible (the eternity effect), and is unfair due to the resource burden it entails when users try to achieve it, while at the same time ensuring the potential benefits we can derive in the future from having personal information online. In addition, deletion requests can negatively affect other people who are in the same location and time frame and may not want to have their information deleted. Collectively, we argue also that society is worse off because these circumstances lead people to construct sanitized personas while perpetuating a culture of distrust. Given that the harm is real, we describe technology, societal norms, and the implementation of an anti-discrimination directive for the right to a personal life, and we provide evidence on how anti-discrimination efforts in the past have succeeded when legislation leads to the development of infrastructures that help to enforce them. The dissemination of personal information through public sites and social media is, as Mozart suggested in Cosi fan tutte, gradually educating humanity about human weaknesses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Human Factors and Ergonomics
- Information Systems
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering