Date of this Version
The Conversation, May 15, 2019,
The internet is growing, but old information continues to disappear daily.
Many MySpace users were dismayed to discover earlier this year that the social media platform lost 50 million files uploaded between 2003 and 2015. The failure of MySpace to care for and preserve its users’ content should serve as a reminder that relying on free third-party services can be risky. MySpace has probably preserved the users’ data; it just lost their content. The data was valuable to MySpace; the users’ content less so.
Preserving content or intellectual property on the internet presents a conundrum. If it’s accessible, then it isn’t safe; if it’s safe, then it isn’t accessible. Accessible content is subject to tampering, theft or other sorts of bad actions. Only content that is inaccessible can be locked and protected from hacking.
So yes, the internet is rotting, but archivists and digital librarians like myself knew it was rotten already, as did anyone who ever got a “404 File Not Found” error. Where there is economic incentive to keep and use data – such as user information, profiles or browsing history – it may exist for quite a long time. It has been said by many that data is the new oil, and corporations are anxious to drill and exploit this resource.
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