Your Born Identity

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. 

10 comments about "Your Born Identity".
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  1. Rob Goulet from Entertainment Sports Partners, Inc., August 27, 2010 at 1:45 p.m.

    Great Post.

  2. Georgia Garrett from Valassis, Inc., August 27, 2010 at 1:54 p.m.

    I have changed my name (first and last) although not for any reason cited in this article. It was for business and personal reasons. There are pros and cons to it, as far as anyone finding me online... sure, people can't "dig up the dirt" unless they know my former name, but I feel that I don't have a lot of dirt TO find, and now, anything that I might have posted that was insightful or positive in some way, won't ever really be attributed to me under my new name. C'est la vie though, It was still worth it and I am glad I changed my name.

    I agree with the author though-accountability is a good thing. Having people think that they can just shed their old identity and take on something new only means that the younger generation will be more bold/racy/flippant in what they post/share online. Name changes are public documents so I can see sites popping up that will reveal any "new" names former identity. Another business opportunity?

  3. Dave Kohl from First In Promotions, August 27, 2010 at 4:04 p.m.

    Good points. This is the modern day version of dealing with the 6-month gap on a resume.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 27, 2010 at 5:24 p.m.

    And people think there are too many excons in their neighborhoods now. Just wait. At least this will solve the illegal immigrant problem although the terriost population would be something else. Let's build them housing next to the Schmidts. Also, Man Without A Country should be on everyone's reading list.

  5. Sheridan Sands from Initiative, August 28, 2010 at 11:08 a.m.

    The accountability piece is huge. The process of owning a decision builds good character. Walking away from regrettable choices seems too easy.

  6. Beverly Dracos from Dracos Genuine Communications, August 28, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.

    This is definitely a thought provoking article. Who we have been is a significant part of who we are, but fortunately for all of us, our past is not necessarily a predictor of our future. I agree that it's best to acknowledge mistakes and demonstrate change.

    Based on the popularity of the credit repair scams I can definitely see identity repair just around the corner.

    Words in cyberspace have a long life, use them wisely.

  7. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, August 30, 2010 at 5:25 a.m.

    Google has meant people are more prone to be politically correct. Here is an example. It doesn't matter to me what a prospective employee believes about abortion...they can be proud of their position...but it could still hurt them with various other employers. The terms "accountability" and "something you may regret" are irrelevant here. People can be hurt for being honest about an issue that has partisans.

    I got jobs by being a pro-Iraq War veteran of another war. I've maybe not had a female CEO pick me because I was against radical someone changing their name might be damned proud of all the opinions they've ever had, but still not want nosy people picking apart their past life and everything they ever said online.

    And here is another example about how the invasion of privacy is rarely related to "something you regretted writing or doing": I was stupid enough to have given a journalist my real age and real spelling of my name 20 years ago when he wrote an article. The article is now online and searchable by Google.

    I regret telling the truth to him 20 years ago because now anyone can tell how old I really am if I hadn't spammed Google with tons of disinformation about my age in the meanwhile.

    How old any of us are is nobody's business.

    So, again, "accountability" and "information about something you regret saying" are not such relevant concepts when it comes to an individual's desire for privacy.

    The German National Socialist Workers Party was fond of saying "if you don't have anything to hide, why worry" about something like Google.

  8. Paul Burani from Web Liquid Group, August 30, 2010 at 8:09 p.m.

    Amen, Janel! If all of this comes true, which all or most of it probably will... pretty soon it will be impossible to hire someone without unearthing some compromising little pebble from their past. It is the industry that will need to adapt, instead changing its view of which values really belong in their environment.

  9. Gwyneth Llewelyn from Beta Technologies, August 30, 2010 at 8:14 p.m.

    Very thought-provoking indeed. I like the idea of accountability, but on the other hand, I obviously despise the notion of a complete and absolute lack of privacy, as it becomes easier and easier to track people down on the net and figure out their past and present, often without allowing people to have any saying about what gets posted and what doesn't.

    At this stage, when someone comments: "oh, but if you're honest and truthful, you have nothing to fear" I'll just gently remind them that this is the first step towards dictatorship, and tell them to grab a copy of George Orwell's "1984". It's really so, so easy to find very good and persuasive argumentation about how "honest people" have nothing to fear about having their whole private lives being exposed publicly. It's a very powerful, compelling, and persuasive argument.

    It happens just to lead to a one-side track road straight into the oblivion of dictatorship. But it's the first step that is the hardest to take, and we're so close to taking it...

  10. Gwyneth Llewelyn from Beta Technologies, August 30, 2010 at 8:18 p.m.

    And btw, Jerry Foster's quite right. You just start valuing privacy the moment you've lost it — but then it's too late to repair the damage.

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