Consider for a moment the first time you created an identifier online for yourself. For me, it was the first time I signed up with a Internet Service Provider. It was so long ago, I had to supply my details by fax. 20 years later, I am still signing up for digital services or products, thankfully not with a fax.
Considering how many services people causally sign up too its surprising how few are consciously ended. Many of these unclosed digital relationships are still present on databases, return results to search engines, but may be long forgotten by the user.
This reveals a dangerous crack in the users perception of control of their content.
An extreme, but a very real situation, is when people pass away. Facebook introduced memorial pages in 2009 for departed loved ones and Google has recently taken action with their Inactive Account Manager. Although a welcomed initiative for Closure Experiences it has taken a surprising amount of time to recognize that people die and there being a consequence of that.
Professor Mayer-Schönberger, in his book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (Princeton, 2009), challenges this issue by championing our right to be forgotten online. Stating why it is important to not have access to everything from our past with the damaging potential of a compromising Facebook picture, or outdated information taken as fact. He proposes ‘expiration dates on information as a solution.
This feels overly simplistic and systematic, when the reason for not using an account can be diverse and personal. It isnt that we need to enforce service providers to forget/delete our digital content at a scheduled time, but to provide users with clearer Closure experiences that acknowledge when information should be forgotten or left for following generations.