A history full of holes
BuzzFeed has published a useful reminder
that Flickr will delete your photos on February 5 if you have a free account with more than 1,000 photos in it.
While Flickr’s policy makes sense for a service under new ownership wanting to remove unnecessary bloat, there’s something a little unsettling about things you uploaded to the web being deleted by someone else. Sure, it’s Flickr’s right to do that, but I can’t help but mourn the ‘collective memory’ we’re wiping every time something like this happens.
Think about the events that will be wiped from the public record when photographs of them are deleted from Flickr. It’s not just about people who may want to reuse the images, but about those who simply want to look at them in the future. Think of the links that will become dead on old web pages, and the records of human activity – no matter how minor they may seem on their own – that will be lost.
The EU has stirred up much debate in recent years with its 'right to be forgotten.’ I agree with the EU that it’s important for individuals to be able to have something relating to them taken down if they wish (within limits). But whether you’re an individual or the operator of a huge online platform, it’s important to bear in mind the value of a collective public record.
Historians of the future will have incredible data to explore about life on Earth in the early 21st century, and they’ll no doubt have the tools needed to make the most of it. Why leave them with unnecessary holes in the data?