Two weeks ago, I read a provocative statement made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Here's an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article in which he's quoted:
"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," he [Schmidt] says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites.
If young adults truly must change their online identity once they reach adulthood, could this actually be a viable business model of the future? Think about the legal processes that have already been taken online and made into great businesses through simplified online form completion. When we started our company, Chacka Marketing, one of the first steps was to incorporate the business. Although some forms had to actually be signed and sent back, we never had to meet with anyone. In fact, speaking to a person was completely optional.
You can sign-up easily for identity protection today, so is identity change really that far of a stretch? Maybe calling it identity change is a bit extreme; it really would only require a name change, which seems like a legal process that could very easily be taken online. From here, there may even be other new business models, like identity skip tracing and identity suppression. There may even be a market for SEO experts to assist in the new name selection process in order to choose a name that is easily and quickly optimized for search results. Maybe there will even be one big conglomerate that offers all of these services as a package deal.
This may all sound outlandish. It did to me at first, too, but then I thought about it. I truly am curious if this will, in fact, be an essential component to entry into adulthood. As someone who searches prospective employees on Google and Facebook, I must admit that posts in poor taste are not my only turn-offs. Finding someone in the future with no history whatsoever may just be the biggest turn-off of all.
Personally, I am big on accountability. I have much greater respect for the individual who acknowledges his or her past and doesn't hide from it. Everyone has something they are not proud of, but hiding from it will get you nowhere with me. So if you are reading this article 10 years from now and are about to send me your resume, please just include an explanation of how you have matured since you posted that horrible statement two weeks ago on your wall. You don't need to go changing your name. More important, teach your children social responsibility and maybe they will never have to hide from their past.