Monday, 7 August 2017

Some old Ramsgate pictures and a bit of a rant about data, personal information, the right to be forgotten and what we have done on the internet.

Back in 1998 I bought a computer and connected it to the internet, I had had a previous and rather embarrassing brush with computers back in about 1970 with various bumpy moments while I was a sort of mechanic during the 70s, followed by 80s and 90s when I was mostly a sort of shop assistant who didn’t use one very much.

In the book business during the 90s the pressure to compute was very high because the bookshop trade reference books, like Books in Print and Book Auction Records, became progressively difficult and expensive to get on paper.

We went through a microfiche period which I think started in the early 80s and by the end of the 90s was becoming a redundant format, rather in the way the cassette tape, floppy disk, vhs tape and now the cd and dvd seem to have gone or be going.

I had a sort of feeling that my future as a shop assistant involved computers and the internet, I wasn’t quite sure of how this would work then and to be honest I am still not sure now.

We sell some books on the internet, mostly the local books we print and publish here in the bookshop and of course the computer allows us to print and publish them, selling secondhand books on the internet has not been particularly successful, on the other side of the coin nor has buying them.

I think the main attraction for me was writing things down online where lots of people would read them, or to be more realistic could read them, since I learnt to read on my own at around seven, but was never very keen on the writing part.

As some readers may know I was disabled as a child and one of the various things I had was sydenham's chorea, which made my hands shake, so I developed an aversion to writing things down on paper.

This aversion didn’t seem to extend to the keyboard, so for a bit I became something of a keyboard warrior, moaning about the council, Pleasurama and so on. For a while I did this on my own website and then on thanetonline blog, although to be honest it didn’t achieve very much, Pleasurama is still a deserted building site.

One thing that did happen is that my skill at typing developed until I could write at least as fast as anyone else using a pen. I don’t think I picked up much in the way of grammar on the way, but then writing for a screen isn’t the same as writing for paper, so I am not really sure that this mattered very much.

Over time the social media side of the internet changed and when I first started the blog I could quite reasonably have open and uncontrolled anonymous comment without any problem, this would have been from about 2007 and by 2014 one of my new year’s predictions was that anonymous comment on the blog would be over by the end of the year. 

Social media always has a tendency towards school playground behaviour and although I did go through and remove the worst of the comments, that seem to be directed towards real people, there are about three and a half thousand posts on the blog, so there are probably still quite a few comments that I would delete if I found them. With the new and much tougher data protection rules being proposed, which I think will include a much more stringent right to be forgotten package I am wondering what sort of liability I would have in terms of old comments.

With the blog it’s hosted by Google, so the liability would fall either with me, the person who left the comment or Google.

In practical terms old comments can be deleted by me, presumably Google and if the person who left the comment was signed on to their Goole Blogger account they can delete it too.

This opens a can of worms for people who have left comments under their own name but without being signed on in a way because they can’t delete them. There is also the whole area where someone has put something on the internet pretending to be someone else.

There is whole area of coming round after six cans of Special Brew or that second bottle of something that had very good reviews – depending on your class, and having made online comments that seemed sensible last night, but which you can’t actually remove in the morning, which to my mind is worth investigating.

A further area where this is an issue is online forms, where often you have no record of what you have said, like you would if you had sent someone an email and perhaps after you have filled the thing in you think you may have made a mistake, but all you are left with, if you are lucky is and email you can’t reply to, saying message received.     

With an email you can at least read through what you said, look at your mistakes and send a further email correcting them.

In general though I think the worst of the problem is where you can publish something on the internet, where everyone can see it, that you can’t remove yourself.

There are some very big companies that allow you to do this including Google and major media sites, I have a feeling that when the government looks at this issue they are going to have to look hard at that one.

At the moment there is a tendency, from the top of the UK government downwards to try and treat the business of correspondence using the internet in a way that is directed towards tripping up the individual and making them feel uncomfortable.

My own method with email still dates back to when emails were considered an informal method of communication always start, Hi X (X being their Christian Name) there is a sense in which I am reluctant to change this, and another in which I feel I will perhaps have to.

Anyway in the first instance if you are vain enough to google your own name in parenthesis and it brings up something you said on here, that you would rather not have said, or there is someone saying something about you on this blog and you don’t like it.

First click on the title of the post, then copy the web address at the top of the browser, so I can find it too, then email me telling me about the problem, my email address is

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Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

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