Is that a threat Mr Schmidt? Why *is* the Google CEO telling us to change our names?

1023eric.jpgIs that a threat Mr Schmidt?

Of late, the Google CEO has been sounding less like the information pioneer and epoch-defining mind that is he is, and more like a scary sort of Bond villain. There was that comment two weeks ago about how “people aren’t ready for the information revolution that’s about to happen”. How he could predict where us bumbling netizens go in real life and how any of us could easily be identified by the photos we have thoughtlessly uploaded to social networking sites. Remind you of something..? A police state? yes.

And then today came the oddly threatening tip that we might want to change our names at some stage in our adult lives to avoid our youthful indiscretions catching up with us. UH WHAT?

I mean, I can see people tidying up their Facebook profiles when they reach a certain age. Or, perhaps making the decision to stop tweeting about their sex lives and making their MySpace private. But changing their names? As in, the name your parents gave you!? that’s rather a serious step and in terms of personal identity and everything it’s pretty severe.

Well Mr Schmidt thinks it’s probably something we’ll all have to consider:
These were his comments as reported by the Wall Street Journal: “I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he 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.”

He also said:

“At the moment, we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.”

Well that’s nice and reassuring isn’t it. All our data are belong to Google. (Except the bits which belong to Facebook).

With Google not just what you’ve searched for of course, it’s also your gmail and your picasa, if you have an Android phone, where you are and where you’ve been…

Unusually for these Czars of the web, Google is in a slightly difficult place. Their core product, the search engine is still master of the internet but its importance is declining as more people spend time on apps (spotify/tweetdeck etc) and more time on closed social networks, like oh, Facebook. That trend seems set to continue. However given the success of the Android platform and, well, the fact that they are still massive, I think we can expect Google to be alive and world-dominant well into the future.

On this name change thing though, do we really think that will be a problem? Will that video you uploaded as a 14 year old emo damage your job prospects when you are 24? Would you change your name to dump an unflattering online profile? Take the poll.

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Anna Leach