Expiring Data

Yesterday Ars Technica had an article giving an alternative view on collecting and storing data called Escaping the data panopticon: Prof says computers must learn to “forget” . Having pack-rat tendencies myself I found the article interesting.

I think the idea of data with an auto-expiration date is good for most companies and especially the government. I think he missed a lot by not including data life-cycle management in his article, since it’s already been a topic of much discussion in business and IT circles.

But what about personal data on one’s home PC? Or personal data one has posted online, at a forum for example. He seems to suggest that every file should come with a year or two expiration, including pictures from one’s digital camera. My gut reaction is to say absolutely not! I want to delete unwanted files intentionally, not have them disappear because I forgot to change the expiration to 10,000 years.

Online forums feel different to me. I don’t care that my post disappear after a while (many already do), as long as it’s clear up front that they are not kept permanently.

In conclusion, I think the author is misdirected. Companies, Governments, and people who collect data from others do need to have a data life-cycle policy in place, and get rid of old records. But I don’t see any advantage to extending that into the home in any automatic fashion whatsoever. A manual process of weeding out old files would still be a good thing though.