Tommy, your father and I would like to talk with you today about… data permanence.
Today’s conversations between parents and children are beginning to diverge from the past. Over generations, parents have spoken with children about how to grow, mature and be their best in the world. Typical topics include stranger-danger, choosing the right friends, adhering to curfews and, the dreaded, protected sex. Now, with over two billion accessing the Internet everyday, the new talk is about what Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen call data permanence. In response to their book, The New Digital Age, the two wrote an article for Wired Magazine describing how peoples’ posts on the Internet are indeed permanent and remain forever. On social media sites, 12-year old kids (right, Mike Daisey?) are constantly sharing written posts, pictures and videos with their friends and families. New social networking sites are sprouting out of Silicon Valley at a faster clip than ever and appeal to a broad range of young people; Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr to name only a few. Kids using these sites and mobile apps are very prone to connect with their friends and share their inner thoughts and interests. Why wouldn’t they? Eric and Jared, however, are calling on parents to protect their young ones from posting dishonorable, disreputable posts that will linger for 10 or 20 years for future eyes to see.
I’m a culprit of data permanence myself. When I was in middle school, I took pleasure in glorifying my dad and his friends after my soccer practices with my buddies. “See [John Smith] over there? He’s such a great dude. Gotta be the coolest dad in town.” I suppose it was a way to pass the time. So, I created a Facebook page to celebrate the great fathers in my town. The page included their names, pictures and humorous commentary written by my friends and me. Almost 10 years later in college, as I was exploring job opportunities, I realized that I was speaking on the telephone with the same older gentlemen that I wisecracked about earlier. How foolish!
The bottom line is to take data permanence carefully. A decade from now, chances are you’ll realize that those jovial quips weren’t that funny.