“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Right? Not if you are known at all. Those days are gone. As if to prove the point, one of my favorite web sites is on the wrong side of this issue. An actress unsuccessfully sued imdb.com for lost wages for having included her age on their site. There is a well known axiom in Hollywood that starlets have a half-life, and age is something that is best kept secret. IMDB countered that what matters is not an actress’ age but her ability to play a certain age.
My point is this: she sued and was unable to have information about her removed. Is age something that you believe should be private? I do. I especially do for people born after 1989 where a birthday and a home city can lead to someone guessing your Social Security Number.
But what about other physical attributes one might consider private? “He has a mole that you can only see if he’s naked.” How about illness? “This actor cannot lift his arm due to a stroke.” Once the information is out there, there’s no way to get rid of it. And this in the UK, which is subject to the European Data Privacy Directive. The situation is considerably bleaker for your personal information in the United States.
Related to this is The Right To Be Forgotten. In Europe they are considering new rules that say that you have a right to have information about you removed. This has some American firms in an uproar, arguing that a lack of transparency only increases risk and inefficiency. But what are the limits? What about this actress who doesn’t want her age known? How did her age provide for market efficiency?