Laughter and Forgetting, Misery and Memory?
A recurrent theme in Dan Solove’s important work is the privacy risks attendant to the ever-faster and powerful ability to collect, use and distribute information about us. Digital dossiers trace and analyze our every move; millions of digital bits help tailor online and offline advertisements, educate employers and insurance companies, and otherwise impact countless decisions about us everyday.
At the same time, we erect our own digital dossiers about ourselves. Our iPods teem with favorite songs; hard drives (and handy flash drives) store pictures and videos of loved ones. This prompts a question about our ability to move past painful episodes, both socially and legally. Mixed-tapes, love letters, and photos once got lost in the shuffle: tapes melted in glove compartments, letters got tossed in various moves, and photos were torn up. Yet today digital natives may be more likely to collect, keep, and ruminate over stored music, emails, videos, and photos than past generations. And even if the young delete those reminders, online sellers and advertisers have long memories–their data-mining programs remember your former (and now painful) love of Led Zeppelin, Chaplin movies, and other shared (and now discarded) passions.
Will this generation and their successors have a more difficult time moving on from difficult experiences? Will they remain anchored, and held back, by them? Aside from the psychological effect of sticky digital memories, will the inability to forget impact law? Will persistent reminders of painful episodes make us more likely to seek legal action where we otherwise might have moved on? Or will rapidly-changing technologies render software obsolete, thus having the same effect as the heat in one’s car or a move ensured the discarding of once treasured items?
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