Eric Schmidt on Name Changing and Privacy

Google’s honcho, Eric Schmidt, says that in the future young people should be entitled to change their name to avoid having to deal with mistakes or foolishness they may have made in their “cyber past.” He says “I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time.”

It seems to me there is an obvious flaw in that logic. If everything is knowable and recorded, it would be simple search to follow anyone’s cyber past by tracking a name change. But set that aside. Schmidt’s comments follow those by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook that we all need to be more transparent and this will erase our fears and apprehensions about privacy concerns. Both tell an important story.

These heads of big data collectors obviously know just how much data is being collected and will be collected moving forward and both realize just how much impact that can have. I agree with Schmidt that we probably don’t realize the impact that this will have and probably aren’t ready for it. Human history is filled with those sorts of stories, where the consequences of our actions later come under a different scrutiny as time passes. Sooner or later I would imagine this will become a bigger social, cultural, and political issue and that will probably be caused by some big event or incident that exposes someone in some way that is hurtful or some level.

With shopping sites, social networks, and location services working to tell us where we are at any given moment and push info to us, or as Schmidt says “tell us what to do next” who knows where this will all head. Maybe the real money to be made in all of this is a social service that tells you not to update your status that way or upload that embarrassing picture of your drunken bender.