2014-04-24

Useless things to ask for: Please delete my name from your mailing list and archives.

It seems to have become a common occurrence lately for people to send requests to email or website administrators to delete some sort of data they emailed a mailing list about. Many times it is because of some personal data that they posted accidentally like a phone number or a home address. Other times they want to completely scrub their email address or real-name from the posts.

I expect that the majority of them have real world reasons for doing so. Maybe someone is stalking them, maybe they have gotten a load of phishing and spam because of it, maybe there house got broken into. Yes, there are probably a lot of other reasons that might seem silly, but I am going to focus on the ones that worry me at night. I worry about them because I can't do what they ask in a way that is helpful to them.

I can quite probably delete the mailing from say our online archives, but I can't remove other people's archives, I can't remove the post from the many mailing list mirrors on the internet, and in most cases I can't be assured that the person asking me to remove their data is really that person. [Too many cases of ex-lovers taking over the others account and sending out weird requests.]

The best solution I can come up with is some training before a person is allowed to join a mailing list... the worst solution is a EULA which they have to click through saying "You are aware that posting data to the internet is a one-way occurence. Whatever you send will be mirrored, reshared, stored, collated, and kept by multiple entities now and in the future. Any rights to remove that data in the future are impossible due to the many parties outside of this mailing lists control. "

Beyond that I don't know... and it can keep me up at night.
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