We are generating so much information every day that we don’t even know what it is being recorded about us. I just checked on Google for my name and found 184,000 pointers. Clearly they will be many that are not about me (I just made random sampling up to the 100th page and with just few exceptions they were about me).
What struck me as funny (or is it not funny) is that a good percentage of these pointers were about something I did that I have now forgotten. Thinking about it and following the link I had to admit that, yes, I did it!
I also thought that I do not know what 99% of the information linked by those pointers are actually saying….
Yes, I have the feeling that I have lost control about myself in the digital space.
Another thing that came to my mind is that the web has change the way we communicate in the sense that nothing fades away (although it gets buried in those 184,000 links…). And this thought was prompted by an article I read.
Indeed, the article points out that even for the information I generate of my own will I cannot control it once I circulate it on the web. Place a photo on Facebook, send a tweet…. it is there forever! Even those places that let you delete the information may be captured by crawlers (like the ones sent out by the WaybackMachine) and reappear in other places. I still remember British Telecom publishing a wrong information on new tariff and removing it after just few minutes. It was too late. That info had already been captured by crawlers and people could still access to it and blame BT for a breach of promise!
A new company, Snapchat, is providing you the tools to attach a time of survival for an information you place on the web and takes care of erasing it once the time goes by. There are now 100 million photos and text messages that destroy themselves, courtesy of Snapchat, every day! They are ghosts that appear for some fleeting moments (e.g. 10 seconds) and then they are gone forever.
The system is not foolproof. A person looking at your photo can make a screen capture and you no longer have control on it. Although Snapchat will let you know that the photo has been copied by xyz there is little you can do about it.
And, of course, if instead of making a screen capture that bad guy takes a photo of your photo….well, you won’t even know he did it!
So the problem is far from being solved but I found 100 million information going through Snapchat as a clear indication that people feel the need to be somehow in control and to be able to NOT record something they do!
Similarly, the success of the DuckDuckGo search engine that makes the promise not to record what you have been looking for is another indication that people wish, from time to time, to preserve their privacy.
DuckDuckGo has already served over 400 million search requests, an average of over 1.5 million a day. Of course nothing compared to the over 3 billions search each day by Google…, but still a lot of people do not know, yet, about DuckDuckGo, and many have said by clicking on it that they do care about privacy!
Too bad that no foolproof solution is in sight!