We need to find a means of realigning the balance between who profits from personal information and who loses.
Courtesy of technology, we are all authors today as well as audiences – not to mention our own part-time publicists, social secretaries, agents and ambassadors. Though some people still shun social media, for most of us "identity" is something we forge in the eyes of the world, composed of countless comments, tags, status updates, images, and half-forgotten submitted forms.
If there's one thing that publicists and ambassadors alike have long known, it's that we cannot control the afterlife of our words. As soon as they are written or spoken they become the property of the world, grist to its mills of rumour and opinion and to a vengeful eternity of quotation and misquotation. When it comes to our online outpourings, forgetfulness is equally impossible. Data only accumulates, and the uses to which it can be put defy all anticipation.
This doesn't mean anticipation isn't a game worth playing, though. What might the thousands of words and images sent out by a teenager today be used for decades down the line, not to mention the gigabytes of data representing their recorded actions and preferences? The right algorithms can crunch this information into almost any context, from credit scores to health and motor insurance premiums; from indexes of employability and influence to net worth.