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Digital Footprints

December 24, 2007

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released their “Digital Footprints” report. This is a absolute must read for anyone concerned about how identity and privacy are changing in the modern world.

It describes the increasing amount of information we each leave in the cloud (they call them “digital footprints”) as well as the growing obsession with searching for information about ourselves (“ego surfing”). At the same time, the frequency with which people monitor their own information is pretty low (just 3% making a regular habit of it).

There are far-reaching implications for the way in which our identity has become something open to ongoing public scrutiny as well as subject to public “modification”. If your friends can post a comment about us on our own Facebook page, or on their own page next to a picture they took of us, then we no longer have control over public perceptions. Anyone can wage a smear campaign against us now. Legal recourse is possible, but information persists in search engines forever.

Sometimes I am fearful about the online information available about me. Although relatively benign (I believe), it still paints a picture of who I am and what I have done that yields insights into my life I would not always choose to share with everyone. But, I have made the voluntary choice to share it because I ultimately believe it is better for me to feed the river of knowledge rather than try to try and be the dam.

If you don’t already have Google Alerts set up for your name, now is the time.

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