Deleting Digital Detritus Dubious And Doubtful

from the digital-hindsight-is-20-10 dept

In a non-digital world, pictures and documents fade nearly as quickly as our memories do. In the digital realm, emails, documents, pictures and videos can be be very difficult to delete completely. While you may think that you’ve deleted something off your own computer, the file may still be recovered off your hard drive. Or, the file may still exist on backup tapes somewhere. If the file is online, surely the GoogleBot has logged it as a part of the Google permanent record. The point is, unlike their real-world counterparts, digital files may be easily copied, forwarded, and saved unbeknownst to the file’s originator. And once the cat is out of the proverbial bag, it’s very, very difficult (perhaps impossible) to get her back in there. People (especially lawyers) have attempted to sue files out of existence, but more often than not, the attention garnered by trying to get something deleted draws more attention to the file that they’re trying to erase. That said, the natural reaction on reading such a story for many is to assume this is a “bad thing” and yearn for the “good old days.” However, it’s not going away — and in many ways has its advantages (how nice is it to refind stuff you thought was lost forever?). Still, it does mean that people need to get used to the idea that anything recorded digital doesn’t fade away quite so quickly… if ever.

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Comments on “Deleting Digital Detritus Dubious And Doubtful”

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Block Sheep (user link) says:

I miss TechTV

I once saw some rich dude on TechTV who was being interviewed and he told the interviewer he had decided to never delete anything again. From his perspective it was cheaper to keep buying larger drives than it was worth in his time to decide whether to keep something or not.

I have started to do the same thing with many of my files.

Privacy issues aside, applications such as Google Desktop Search are going to become more important because of this.

What would be even more useful is a filesystem which lets you tag your files with lots and lots of metadata (like does for bookmarks, but even more so).

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