I Hope This Doesn’t Freak You Out

I know a lot about most of you that visit this blog.  More than you probably want me to anyway.

For instance, I know which of you use RSS Feed Readers, and which of you just browse to my site.  I know who your Internet provider is.  I know the general area you live in.   I know FEW of you use feedreaders, but that those of you that do check for something new about every two hours.

I read 2280 feeds, and I check every 15 minutes – imagine what “they” know about me!

I know what time of day some of you always check my blog – and I can tell those of you that just check when they get a chance.

I can tell too much about you maybe.  But I’m trading my thoughts and feelings with you for free in exchange – so no harm, no foul, right?

There is a foul – the foul is a simple one.  You probably didn’t know when you got here what I would know about you – and that’s not fair.  I can easily argue that you should know what you are getting into, and it’s not my fault your don’t understand “The Internet”.  Who does?  So the fact I know where you are from, when you log in here, what ports are exposed on your PC, whether you run BitTorrent or not…  none of this is your concern?  I have no obligation to tell you?   Bullshit.

My point is simple – you are sharing a lot of data over the Internet. So am I.  But we should own some level of control over that data.  We should at least be able to question it – to review it.

Two years ago or so I wrote about my views on data – and they haven’t changed.  Your data is yours.

So now I am going to try and do something to back up my words – I am looking for someone to help me write a WordPress plug-in that will allow any user, subscriber or poster to delete everything “I know about them”.  Every comment, every visit.  Can you imagine going to Amazon.com and entering your email address and clicking a button that says “forget me” – and that Amazon actually does that?

Won’t happen.  Unless we force it to happen.

Let’s write this simple plug-in first, and then let’s try to get others to adopt it – starting with MySpace.  A one-click delete on MySpace would be a small victory worth fighting for.

And remember – this isn’t a “delete my account” button – this is a “forget you ever met me” button.


  1. Paul Claessen says:

    From a technical point of view I would be very interested in such a plugin.
    Not that I’m too overly worried about data that people have about me, but I like the idea of going back and being able to alter what I have written.
    If ONLY to correct the typo’s I’ve made!

    The main issue here, then, I think is one of authentication.
    With such a plugin, we must make sure that anyone wanting to alter something is indeed who she is she claims to be and to restrict access to ONLY her data.

    This means that we HAVE to restrict this feature to people who have registered. Unregistered poster’s data will NEVER be allowed to be modified. Do you agree that that is reasonable?

    From there on the rest is fairly simple, ESPECIALLY if you know someone who’s good with SQL (and I know you do!).

    For every day’s usage, it’s all pretty straight forward. There are some ‘advanced’ issues of course (what are you going to do with the data that you have in your backed-up archives for instance!), but I personally don’t care about that.

    One more general remark about your idea: You KNOW the internet is full of crooks… So what COULD happen with this plugin is the reverse of what you INTEND it to do:

    You ask me to install the plugin.
    I say okay… and you get to see all the nice buttons to manipulate YOUR data on MY website (hey…I’m a nice and friendly guy!).
    One day you, for whatever reason, maybe you’re getting sick and tired of my always beating you at poker…, hit the ‘forget me’ button, and POOF … all your data is gone.
    Or is it?
    Maybe I just mimicked those buttons, and now I have WAY more information about you, than when I would have rejected your plee to install the plugin, because, by pretending I installed it, I instilled a warm fuzzy feeling about your security in you. You may have divulged much more information than you normally would have, because of this false sense of security.
    If you’re asking someone else to take care of YOUR security … you’re leaving yourself WIDE open for all kinds of nasty surprises!

    I LOVE the idea of the plugin. But only to correct my typo’s and retract stupid things I said when I was drunk.
    NOT to prevent my data from going to the wrong places.

  2. Paul Claessen says:

    I just installed a wordpress blog myself.
    If you ask me to install a plugin that allows you to delete or alter whatever you (but clearly not someone else) ever have posted on my site… you might as well save yourself the trouble of writing that plugin and simply ASK me to remove or alter what you wrote.
    But .. sure.. write it and I WILL install it. (If you install it too).
    Good luck in getting Amazon to install it though …
    My point is: since your idea relies on the cooperation of people who TAKE your information, you’re ONLY going to get control over stuff at places you probably don’t care about.