Yeah, about that page…


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.

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Suburban soccer practices are great places to be healthy… and lose your mind.

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.

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6 thoughts on “Yeah, about that page…

  1. This was a really interesting post. Data permanence is certainly something I’m aware of – like most college seniors who are in the midst of their job searches. It can be challenging at 12 years old, 16 years old, and 21 years old to make the right judgment about what might or might not be appropriate for someone to see in years to come. Certainly most of us have questionable posts or photos somewhere along the line, and it’s pretty scary to think that these may never actually go away. This is why it’s important to post things in moderation and always think critically about how you act on the internet. It might not be fair for a picture from your 21st birthday to be the reason you don’t get hired for a job at 25, but it is certainly possible.

  2. Everyone in our generation is starting to fully realize the full implications of what they post online. Funny selfies with your friends were funny in 7th grade, but do I want my future boss to be able to see those? Like in your example, we never know when these things we post will come up again. I think that people deserve some level of privacy even with what they put online, but it seems that online privacy is a thing of the past. I find myself wondering if there will come a time when people will be too fed up with online privacy that social media sites become a thing of the past, but I doubt it. They are a huge part of our generation that I do not see going away any time soon, but I feel like I may get tired of having my privacy invaded.

  3. I remember a webpage, named rich kids of instagram, auto collect all the photos from Instagram posted by millionaires’ children. The first response I have about that page is, they are really rich kids. However, after minutes, I recognized how much privacy were revealed by the “rich kids” incautiously. If I am a criminal, I can easily find a target on that page while they posted the photos with all the detail of locations and times. But if the users themselves do not value the importance of privacy, how can we help them?
    PS: I liked your reference of Mr. Daisey.

  4. Scott,
    I definitely believe that our generation has also constantly heard about the dangers of data permanence and its possible negative effects on our future. Being the “Facebook generation,” we must be extremely careful of our online actions. The pictures we post and comments we make could, potentially, put us out of a job later on in life. I do not know where technology will be heading in the future, but I do know that by the time I have kids, I will be explaining to them that their actions online cannot be erased. And more often than not, those online actions are misinterpreted by others to be distasteful.

  5. I feel like we tend to assume the problems of data permanence are the “fault’ of the sharer or poster. Is that realistic? People used to discuss Johnny’s soccer practice on the phone, or by letter, or in conversation. Those are all communication medium. Of course, the storability and searchability of this information is what is challenging from a technological perspective.

    Should we question why others look, search, leverage the permanence?

    From a consequentialist perspective, are there benefits to all the sharing/posting? Are there costs? What are the benefits?

  6. This is a issue that is being talked about more and more. I was just talking to someone the other day who was telling be about how a fellow worker had just been fired because he told his boss that he was sick and then later that day added a picture of himself relaxing drinking a refreshing beverage. I think it is obvious that the guy was pretty stupid for posting that on social media on a day that he was supposedly sick, but it is a good example on how sites like Facebook can get you in trouble. Social media has allowed us to express ourselves more than ever before, but by doing so has also caused us to get ourselves in trouble at times.

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