Rhodri Marsden: Corporate power lies in the mixed messages

We could do what Schmidt suggests and live carefree lives before clearing up the mess afterwards

Share
Related Topics

A friend of mine recently lost her job, thanks to recession-related cuts. Her worries surrounding finding a new one have nothing to do with the number of opportunities available or her qualifications, but are more centred around the information about her that she knows is floating around, out of her reach, on the internet. She has committed no crime or done anyone any harm, but over the years has simply found herself responding honestly to that casual question that's asked of us (either explicitly or otherwise) by an ever-increasing number of websites: "What are you up to?"

The comments from Google CEO Eric Schmidt seem to indicate that the solution to the problem of "over-sharing" is that we should have the right, in the future, to detach ourselves from any highly public, highly erratic online personas we once had. He is, quite rightly, sceptical that society understands what happens "when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time" – but nor, to be frank, does Schmidt himself; last year, for example, he stated that if people didn't want their experiences to become public knowledge, maybe they shouldn't be doing them. Even last week, speaking at a technology conference, he decried online anonymity as potentially dangerous, hinting that governments will, one day, demand verified name services online. Neither of these statements seem to square with his current one, which is more like, "share everything now, worry about identity issues later". One can't blame Schmidt on a personal level for flip-flopping; the myriad ways we interact online have become sociologically mind-bending. But, at the same time, he is CEO of one of the companies who make huge sums out of the information we surrender to them in the name of fun, interaction or convenience.

As it stands, we have three options. We go down the route Schmidt suggests, live our lives in a public, carefree fashion, then try to clear up the mess afterwards. Instead, we could use technology more responsibly – perhaps even cut out social media altogether and accept the severance of all those social connections we've undoubtedly been enjoying for the last few years. Or we can simply hope that the sheer quantity of data about ourselves that we sling into cyberspace will become perfectly normal; that all our personal foibles, indiscretions and stupidities will be regarded by society as a normal part of being human. Which, of course they are. But be clear – the onus will always be on us to worry about this; internet giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Google will always claim to be a benign overseer of our online lives, despite them constantly urging us to comprehensively document them for posterity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project