Viktor Mayer-SchÃ¶nberger (blog), an associate professor of public policy at Harvard Universityâ€™s Kennedy School of Government, says in a “working paper” that the seemingly endless expansion of computersâ€™ storage capacity means that more and more elements of our lives are being recorded, and more and more of the recordings are being saved. This “will profoundly influence how we view our world, and how we behave in it,” he writes. “If what we do can be held against us years later, if all our impulsive comments are preserved,” he says, the “lack of forgetting” could lead us to “speak less freely and openly.”
The solution? Mr. Mayer-SchÃ¶nberger proposes “that we shift the default when storing personal information back to where it has been for millennia, from remembering forever to forgetting over time.” Laws, he argues, should require various kinds of software to forget information after some period â€” days or weeks for surveillance cameras, for instance, maybe years for Amazonâ€™s records of our book purchases. Users could change the expiration dates of information they want to preserve, he says, but otherwise forgetting would once again be the norm.