Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hoarding Buried Alive: Online Edition

Have you ever seen the television show on TLC called “Hoarding Buried Alive”? If you haven’t, it’s about these people who go about their daily lives living amongst everything and anything that has ever come in contact with them. They usually have mental issues that leave them to think that everything has value or memories connected to it…even trash. To most people this seems bizarre and totally irrational, and that’s because it’s true. There is no need to keep the wrapper from your McDonalds toy from when you were five. So why are Google, Yahoo, and other websites storing data all the way back from the moment it was created? Some people find it amusing to be able to look back a year from today and see what they searched while others are becoming paranoid about all that is being stored. It is a complete waste to store all this data when it’s going to do nothing but sit for the next hundreds of years to come. People aren't going to remember why they looked something up even if they did go back ten years in the search history. What ever happened to the saying “It’s history now”? A certain level of forgetfulness is what makes us human beings. Life is able to go on because people forget the little things that don’t matter. Fights are resolved because people forget what started it. Stories are told over and over again because people forget how it went. People do dumb things because they forget what happened the last time they did it….okay, so maybe that’s a little too much forgetfulness, but I think you get the point. 
Just as the hoarders in the world have to get rid of their undesirables, so do media sites. Data should be saved in a manner that is appropriate to the situation. Google doesn’t need to save everything that has ever been searched. A limit of storing maybe a year’s worth of searches is suffice…maybe even less. Telephone companies don’t need to store every phone call and text that has ever been sent. Online stores don’t need to keep track of every purchase ever made. Its ridiculous! 

Coming from the forensics side of things, I also can see where storing information can be helpful. Evidence is never destroyed. It is stored in a warehouse forever. Fingerprints are never taken out of the system once they are put in. These instances of storing everything is okay because it is related to a life or death situation. It is necessary to keep criminals off the streets and to find them if they ever go astray again. It also helps police officers and other judicial officers of the law do their job. Last I checked, storing information about people in their past has only hurt people when doing/getting a job. Now whether what they posted should have ever been posted is a whole other blog post that I’m not about to get into. 

I think we can all come to the conclusion that data storage should be limited…unless you truly think your search for the Sasquatch in your backyard from ten years ago is crucially important today, then maybe you should reevaluate yourself. People are human and need to be able to forget certain aspects of their life. Strangers need to be able to say hi for the first time without knowing every fact about each other. Grandparents need to be able to tell their grandkids stories of the past without their grandkids being able to look it up on google. I, for one, need to be able to do normal human things, and if that means forgetting something here and there, I am perfectly okay with that. The human mind isn’t meant to be perfect in memory so neither should search engines and websites. “The advantage of forgetting is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” Friedrich Nietzsche

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