Your permanent record {Editor’s Column}

Niki Turner

“That’s going on your permanent record,” was was the penultimate threat from teachers and principals. Any bad behavior that ended up on our “permanent record” was destined to haunt our lives. I heard that threat, more than once, but I never did see my permanent record. It may still be out there, somewhere. When I applied for college, no one mentioned it. When I applied for a job, it never came up. Eventually I ceased believing such a thing existed.

Today, however, we really do have a “permanent” record in the form of social media and digital data. Whatever we post on social media becomes public knowledge. Anyone can find that data—that record of opinions and thoughts and feelings—and publish it anywhere. Once it hits social media it’s considered public information.

Oh, you say, I’m only sharing with my 12 friends. Well, your 12 friends each have 12 friends who have 12 friends who have 12 friends, and all their privacy settings are different. That snarky post about your boss, intended only for your closest friends, could easily wind up on the feed of thousands. If you’re looking for attention, that might be just what you want. If you’re just looking for a place to vent, you might be better off meeting a friend for coffee.

In an alley.

In another town.

The truth is, with the innovation of social media, we really do have a permanent record out there, and it can be used against us. Our thoughts and opinions, what we shop for and even what we think about shopping for, are all on record in cyberspace. There are ways to get around that digital record, but they’re fairly complex for the average computer user.

Bottom line? If you want something kept secret (if you even think that might be a good idea) keep it off social media entirely. And maybe off your phone and off your computer, too.

For the City of Atlanta this week, they didn’t have a choice in the matter. The city’s entire computer infrastructure was attacked by “ransomware,” similar to the cyberattack that felled CDOT’s computers a few weeks ago—twice.

Atlanta city employees have been living in a pre-internet time warp, forced to use pen and paper to complete essential tasks, like police reports and payment records.

It’s yet another reminder that while the internet can be a wonderful tool, it’s not infallible, nor is it entirely trustworthy. As our dependence on it increases exponentially, we might want to stop and think about what would happen if it disappeared, or if hackers locked us out of our computers. Apparently that possibility is not as farfetched as we might be led to believe.

Sunday is both Easter and April Fool’s Day. If it snows, hide hard-boiled eggs in the snow to celebrate both holidays at once.