The great paradox of today’s Internet is that the Web feels less and less orderly, even as technology companies preach the virtues of control.
Take Facebook: It has recently been caught hosting photos that its users had asked it to delete three years ago. Last year, a bug in its security system made the private photos of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, publicly accessible. Or take Anonymous, which keeps releasing personal information of private citizens and public officials, with the goal of making broad political statements or just having fun. Or take Path, a popular social network, which was recently caught uploading members’ mobile phone contacts to its servers. […]
What’s to be done? One solution would be to make the Web a less anonymous place, so that it becomes possible to trace and punish the likes of, well, Anonymous. Another solution would be to accept such disasters as inevitable and focus on managing one’s online reputation. […]
The third, more popular solution is to embrace the so-called “right to be forgotten”—a right so ambiguous that even its proponents can’t often define what it is. In its weakest form, it is commonsensical: Users should have the ability to delete whatever information they upload to online services. In its strongest form—whereby users are able to delete information about themselves even from third-party sites or search engines—it is too restrictive and unrealistic.
However, “the right to be forgotten” won’t do much to mitigate debacles like Google Buzz and Path, let alone regulate Anonymous. […] Here is a more elegant solution: We need a mandatory insurance scheme for online disasters. For what is an accidental disclosure of information if not an online disaster—a ferocious man-made information tsunami that can destroy one’s reputation the way a real tsunami can destroy one’s home?
Read the full article for more about the advantages of this proposal.