How well do we remember our lives before the internet? Before we had instant knowledge of everything just a few clicks away? Before we could hear driving directions as we motored through a new city or country? Before we could do stupid things because we didn’t know any better, and it wouldn’t come back to ruin a career?
I’ve been talking about what the major tech companies like Google and Facebook know about every user on the internet. I want to close this with a reminder that, despite the passage of time and no matter how unsophisticated we may have been, it appears there are no secrets that cannot be exposed. We already know this about transparency with court records, law enforcement incidents, license plates on cars, etc. But that list now also includes potential recriminations for things we did when we were young. Silly stunts in high school. Fun fraternity parties in college where you and your frat brothers dressed in costumes to win prizes. Career politicians and even ordinary, well-meaning business people are being called to account for thoughtless, fun-at-the-time activities from their teens and early twenties.
The terms “privacy” and “internet” are, I think, mutually exclusive. It’s not the nature of the beast to consider your right to choose what is known publicly about you above Big Tech’s algorithms for being able to track everything. Be aware. If you are currently doing anything to contribute to anything that involves others, you can be investigated on the internet. This is true whether you are running for City Council, opening a much-needed day care center, umpiring a Little League game, or even just offering to drive in a carpool.
So What Can We Do About It?
My advice? Don’t withdraw from the richness of your communities or your call to service. But do think back to every daring thing you did in high school and every crazy thing you did in college. Were there photos taken? Are there yearbook pictures somewhere? If so, be ready to explain why, back then, this event was not a political statement or a reflection of your ideology. Rather, it was a school party where you and your frat brothers and your sorority sisters dressed up as characters from “Hogan’s Heroes” or “I Dream Of Jeannie” because those TV shows were popular at the time and it seemed like a really fun thing to do. Then, hopefully, other grownups who have similar photos from way back when of themselves also having fun will chuckle with you and everyone will move on. It can happen to you, just like we know so can identity theft, phishing scams, and ransomware attacks.
If you have questions about the darker joys of our current Information Age, give us a call at Aptica. We can advise you about protection and about mediation, and tell some stories of our own.
Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium sized businesses for 16 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo OH.