How to forget, when you’ve remembered to do so

vanish-logoIn a previous post, I wrote about the need to ‘forget’ the cloud of digital information which we all seem obliged to create nowadays, and which may come back to haunt us forever. I mentioned the idea of having some of this information ‘self-destruct’ after an appropriate time. Those clever people (Hank Levy, Tadayoshi Kohno, Roxana Geambasu and Amit Levy) in the Computer Science Department at the University of Washington in Seattle have now arranged for just this to happen, with their aptly named Vanish software.

Amit Levy and Roxana Geambasu
Amit Levy and Roxana Geambasu

This allows you to specify that a document will irreparably disappear after eight hours. At present, it works with emails, blog postings, Google Docs documents, and Facebook messages, and only with the Firefox web browser. The creators are planning to extend the range of information entities to be vanished, and to allow a wider range of life times. Of course, a recipient can always make a non-vanishing copy, and, as the creators have noted, government agencies will no doubt have ways round it. But it’s a certainly a nice start in enabling us to leave the past behind.

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