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A few months ago, I noted that Google's Chairman of the Board and CEO Eric Schmidt gave a long interview in the Wall Street Journal about his view of the future of IT and Google's role in it.

As part of his interview, CEO Schmidt said:

"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time."

 As a result, the WSJ says, "He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites."

CEO Schmidt's comments caused a bit of a stir at the time, but apparently the European Commission has proposed something similar albeit not so radical as part of its proposed update to the EU's privacy laws: a legal "right to be forgotten" the London Telegraphreported last week.

The Telegraph quotes Viviane Reding, Europe's rights commissioner, as saying:

"Internet users must have effective control of what they put online and be able to correct, withdraw or delete it at will. ... What happens if you want to permanently delete your profile on a social networking site? Can this be done easily? The right to be forgotten is essential in today's digital world."

Potential criminal sanctions are being considered as part of the legislation.

Some, like columnist L. Gordon Crovitz at the Wall Street Journal, have questioned how this can be accomplished in practice and whether the right to be forgotten quickly morphs into one about government-sanctioned private censorship.

For instance, what happens to others who later write something about the information you posted? For example, say you posted a picture of yourself capturing "some youthful hijinks" you later regretted, but say your friends who saw your picture at the time decided to write about your antics to some of their other friends. Can you demand that your friends (and maybe their friends) delete their maybe not so flattering comments about you?

What do you think? Should you have a legal right to be forgotten on the Internet?

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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