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[personal profile] thewayne
I'm in the process of reading Hugo nominees for WorldCon, and I'm past a major plot point reveal in Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. I'm not going to talk about the book right now except to say it's very good and a heck of a read. A character does something quite horrible when he is 17. He's now approximately twice that age, and his past has once again been revealed with bad results.

This is something that's quite real in our current society. We have people self-documenting (and involuntarily so) their lives on Facebook and such, making it risky for future employment. Some employers will look back at a college post of "Got really wasted last night" as just a college post, others will see it as a behavior indicator that they don't want to hire, even though it was a decade ago.

My wife changed her first name while she was working on her doctorate because she had a very common (at the time) first name: Jennifer. She'd be at one of the uni's chow halls and someone would call out to their friend Jennifer, and half a dozen heads would turn. She got tired of it and went through the legal process to change it, and it's now her middle name.

It's been proposed many times that everyone should have the right to have their internet history erased when they turn 18. The problem is that the internet never forgets. For one thing, the internet is an international "thing". There's no one place where it exists, so it's pretty much impossible to erase information from the entire internet. Plus, there are archives. There's no guarantee that compromising information on an obscure web site will be captured by an archiver, but you never know.

One thing on the plus side of anonymity is that information does actually age out. Think of it this way: if you can't find information in a Google search, do you bother using other search engines? Some people do, some don't. So functionally, if Google ages out a search result for compromising information on a person, that information has ceased to exist.

Facebook is another matter. Presumably a person in college has the sense to realize when they hit the job market to go in and clean up their page and ask their friends to clean up references to them. Whether or not third parties do it, they have no control over that.

What about legal trouble? Changing your name would be partially successful to keep you from a shady past catching up with you. While your name won't cause newspaper hits to instantly ping back results, your social security number will! That's one thing that never change: even if you're a victim of massive identity theft and fraud, the government won't change your social security number. I just found out that a friend of mine has been such a victim for probably 20-30 years and didn't know about it because he received two traffic tickets as a teen and refused to deal with them. His mistake, and now he's going to have a heck of a mess cleaning up the trouble that this fraudster has caused him.

Some states are considering making it illegal to have that little checkbox on employment applications that asks if you've ever been convicted of a crime. For some jobs, perhaps that should still be a requirement; you probably don't want a convicted embezzler/forger working as a bank teller. But here in the United States of America, we have a theoretical concept that if you commit a crime and serve your prison sentence and parole, that you should be as good a citizen as a person who's never committed a crime. Except it doesn't work that way. Felons, and in some cases people who commit misdemeanors, are branded for life. Meanwhile, our prison system is increasingly privately owned by for-profit corporations and rehabilitation has fallen way down the list of what they want to do, which is mainly to warehouse prisoners since they charge government organizations on bodies per day to house very bad hombres.

Our country is so fucked up, it's just sad. I have no idea how I went from talking about the right to be forgotten to private prisons. It was a long weekend. Pix and post to follow.
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