Hey kids! Remember how your mom blogged about your thumb-sucking habit — you know, the one you couldn’t break until you were 10? Or how you wet the bed at camp that one year? What about the time you and your girlfriend broke up on Twitter, or that embarrassing picture your college roommates shared on Facebook?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has a solution for you. He thinks that kids should be allowed to change their names when they reach adulthood. In fact, he predicts that future laws will allow all young adults to change their name to preserve anonymity. Since a huge portion of pre-adulthood interactions now happen on social networking sites, Schmidt argues that it’s in a kid’s best interest to be allowed to erase the those early, embarrassing missteps and begin their adult life with a clean slate.
Just try to wrap your head around that for a moment.
According to Schmidt, the future of Google isn’t in search boxes, it’s in targeted consumer information sent directly to the user before they even knew they needed it. From WSJ.com:
Let’s say you’re walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, “we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.” Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities: If you need milk and there’s a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk. It will tell you a store ahead has a collection of horse-racing posters, that a 19th-century murder you’ve been reading about took place on the next block.
But to give you that information, Google is going to need to gather it from you first. And that future, says Schmidt, is going to make it hard for you to hide your indiscretions. “I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” Schmidt tells the Wall Street Journal.
So the lesson is: Don’t hide your past, erase it. Which is a lot different from Schmidt’s 2009 philosophy on privacy: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
Here’s what I think: If the Internet is going to have such an invasive presence in our lives, then maybe we should be spending less time worrying how to help our kids cover their tracks and more time educating them on how to use technology in a responsible way.
That, or someone is going to hit it big with a new line of baby name books for teens looking for a fresh start.