Google CEO predicts name changing to escape web shame

18 Aug 2010

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has warned that young people may resort to changing their names in the future to disassociate themselves from their previous online activity.

Schmidt feared that making so much personal information publicly available will have a huge impact on society.

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time … I mean we really have to think about these things as a society,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Not everyone agrees with this claim, however. Danah Boyd from Microsoft Research New England says that this idea is ‘ludicrous.’

“First, it completely contradicts historical legal trajectories where name changes have become increasingly more difficult,” she said on her blog.

“Second, it fails to account for the tensions between positive and negative reputation. Third, it would be so exceedingly ineffective as to be just outright absurd.”

Social media consultant Suw Charman-Anderson feels that society’s attitudes towards posting such personal information online would change before people would resort to this measure.

“There’s always a lag between the introduction of new technology and the development of a set of social norms around the behaviour that the technology encourages,” said Charman-Anderson.

“As a society, we are just going have to become a bit more forgiving of the follies of youth.”

Google launched its own social network Google Buzz in February 2010. It also launched Google Wave, which was shut down recently due to poor user take-up figures.