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

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: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executives - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral