Bookmark: "What It Takes To Truly Delete Data"

Sebastian Greger


We are living in the age of data. “What It Takes To Truly Delete Data” by Mimi Onuoha tells the story of hard drive disposal to illustrate three key facts about data:

  1. “All data […] is stored on a physical device somewhere.” As long as this is not a single device under the user’s control, there is no physical access to it.
  2. “Data cannot be erased.” You can never be sure every copy of a file has physically destroyed.
  3. “Data is always easier to create than to destroy.”

On her Twitter feed, she further summarizes:

This cannot be stressed enough …and sadly enough, it’s a topic commonly absent from debates on “big data” and the hype over its benefits. As designers we are reponsible for the world we create (cue Mike Monteiro) - any project involving the storage of data should involve an audit on data collected and implement a “minimum actionable dataset” policy.

Also, the so called “consumers” need to be much better educated on this topic: how should a person who has a hard time to even grasp what “the cloud” is in the first place understand the implications of uploading private data to it?


I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

My occasionally sent email newsletter has all of the above, and there is of course also an RSS feed or my Mastodon/Fediverse profile.