July 19, 2024

An Inconvenient Truth About Privacy

One of the lessons we’ve learned from Al Gore is that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. We all like to tool around in our SUVs, but too much driving leads to global warning. We must all take responsibility for our own carbon emissions.

The same goes for online privacy, except that there the problem is storage rather than carbon emissions. We all want more and bigger hard drives, but what is going to be stored on those drives? Information, probably relating to other people. The equation is simple: more storage equals more privacy invasion.

That’s why I have pledged to maintain a storage-neutral lifestyle. From now on, whenever I buy a new hard drive, I’ll either delete the same amount of old information, or I’ll purchase a storage offset from someone else who has extra data to delete. By bidding up the cost of storage offsets, I’ll help create a market for storage conservation, without the inconvenience of changing my storage-intensive lifestyle.

Government can do its part, too. If the U.S. government adopted a storage-neutral policy, then for every email the NSA recorded, the government would have to delete another email elsewhere – say, at the White House. It’s truly a win-win outcome. And storage conservation technology can help drive the green economy of the twenty-first century.

For private industry, a cap-and-trade system is the best policy. Companies will receive data storage permits, which can be bought and sold freely. When JuicyCampus conserves storage by eliminating its access logs, it can sell the unused storage capacity to ChoicePoint, perhaps for storing information about the same JuicyCampus posters. The free market will allocate the limited storage capacity efficiently, as those who profit by storing less can sell permits to those who profit by storing more.

Debating these policy niceties is all well and good, but the important thing is for all of us to recognize the storage problem and make changes in our own lives. If you and I don’t reduce our storage footprint, who will?

Please join me today in adopting a storage-neutral lifestyle. You can start by not leaving comments on this post.


  1. >> If you and I don’t reduce our storage footprint, who will?

    > The second law of thermodynamics. 🙂

    Actually, quite the reverse. Interpreted correctly, the second law says that the hard drive of the universe is write-once, is constantly filling up, and will eventually run out of space, at which time the universe will crash. 🙂

  2. Horrible Idea says

    I hope this was an April Fools joke. Otherwise sounds as if you support the US Government destroying tapes of torturing detainees at Guantanamo and Enron deleting the trail of fraud within it’s general ledger.

    I think its convenient that in a time where people are inherently less trustworthy there is a digital trail forcing accountability.

    Perhaps this is the philosophy of the NJ voting machines you were ranting about last week. Storing one more vote would have required too much storage

  3. April Fool’s Day taken aside, the idea is not entirely without a point and not entirely without existing (and quite thoughtful) implementations. Taking the data protection laws here in germany which include the obligation to generate and store only as much data as is really needed for a defined task. Thus it is unlawful to simply go and require or store data that is not necessary to e.g. deliver a good and post a bill.

  4. David Carroll says

    Why apply the Storage Neutral Lifestyle to external storage only? For everything you remember you should promise to forget an equal amount of other stuff.

  5. Dr. Nume says

    All Ed-foolery aside, I’m doing my thesis on the implications of the magnitude of ever increasing perpetual data storage. For example, google saves it all, with multiple layers of redundancy. And that is just one company. The numbers spiral out of hand before you might think they would.

  6. I am giving up my plan (which I could prove I had, except I thoughtfully deleted all of its data) to generate 10 terabytes a day of new storage. So my 1-gig-a-day habit will give me a huge credit.

  7. Anonymous says

    > If you and I don’t reduce our storage footprint, who will?

    The second law of thermodynamics. 🙂

  8. “We must all take responsibility for our own carbon emissions.”

    In other words, he who smelt it dealt it.

  9. I’ve considered a storage-neutral lifestyle, too, but have found a different way to achieve a zero-sum storage lifestyle.



    .elytsefil egarots mus-orez a eveihca ot yaw tnereffid a dnuof evah tub ,oot ,elytsefil lartuen-egarots a deredisnoc ev’I

  10. As it is April 1st, many will not think this a worthy cause. But now I am crying out at all my parasitic bits I don’t pay attention to, and I took it up. I promis to not us th lttr ” ” from now on. This will cut down on storag bcaus th txts will bcom shortr; also th archivd fils comprss bttr whn th alphabt I am using is smallr. Thr is a small inconvninc, of cours, but surly this is not too high a pric to pay for th consrvation of ths important rsourc!

  11. I get it!

  12. Anonymous says

    polr was so close: “To complete the program, for every law that require you to archive data, you need another law that require you to delete an equal amount of data.”

    May I suggest: To complete the program, for every new law you must delete an old law.

    I was into the second paragraph before I realized what day it is.

  13. Michael Donnelly says

    I am using my Storage Credits to post this comment. Rather than live a Storage Neutral life, I am bartering my storage just like carbon emissions.

    For being able to post this, I have painfully not posted on another blog about the continuing abuses of copyright law as a cudgel against small business. It was a painful trade.

    Excuse me, but I have go drive my Navigator over to the local geothermal plant to deposit my exchange check. Have a day.

  14. I’ll be buying storage offset credits! For policy wonks; would backup count? Would not backing up your data itself be a storage credit? What about my constantly-increasing gmail storage; should I mark sectors of my personal HDD as bad every second?

    Good 4/1 post 🙂

  15. I have decided to work on a strategy neutral lifestyle. For every positive step I make I will make an equally stupid decision. Wait… I think I do that more than I realise already!

  16. bernardo says

    Ed, how right you are. How right you are!!!! I hereby pledge to reduce my storage-footprint from now on. I will begin by disabling the evil bit in all my posts.

  17. I think the idea is cool.

    To complete the program, for every law that require you to archive data, you need another law that require you to delete an equal amount of data.

    After a while, laws will require to archive some much data you won’t be able to store anything else. This will put a definitive end to privacy invasions.

  18. Privacy Dissenter says

    I don’t actually believe that privacy invasion is an epidemic as you say. Data storage is the just the natural variation in bit transfer along the tubes.

    Just talking about it makes me want to go purchase a TB HDD. C’mon everyone, over to pricewatch to get our deal.

  19. By the way, if you was meaning to catch someone, why to tag the post with “humor”?

  20. I hate april.

  21. asbestos says

    You want storage? I got the good stuff, pure & uncut finest on the street.

  22. Nice. Took me halfway through the 3rd paragraph to look at the calendar…

  23. for some reason this is the first comment I’ve left here in ages.

  24. elad-vav says

    umm, yes…

  25. saca,amo says

    Nice try..