Just as we were hearing so much about all the strong possibilities of Snapchat in casual communication and business marketing, the company suddenly faces the prospects of lying about their own product. With the Federal Trade Commission calling them out this week for their claims of messages and photos being deleted forever, it could be that Snapchat’s main marketing message has just been obliterated. That’s because hackers have found ways to retrieve messages from Snapchat. Also, the FTC has said anyone can easily retrieve Snapchat messages and photos simply by connecting to a PC and digging into storage folders to find them.
It just goes to prove that any claims you see about online media disappearing completely into the ether may never be true. But will there ever be a way for anything to disappear on the net so it can’t be found anywhere? That turns into a near metaphysical question pondering whether something is really gone or not after it’s destroyed, especially life.
The connections between what’s digital and real life shouldn’t necessarily be counted out. While the movie “Tron” and its recent sequel pointed out the parallels to what goes on inside a computer with how a human brain might work, we may eventually get to a new stage. It may reach a point where artificial intelligence keeps memories of something deep in the recesses of its circuitry, no matter how many steps we took to scrub something from the digital record.
So far, the best we can do to get a reasonable assumption of something being gone from the Internet is go through the oracle itself: Google. By using their removal request service, they usually do a good job of removing things so they at least don’t show up in a Google search. Other times you have to write websites yourself to get them to remove content that may reference you mistakenly and turn up in search results, check more details here.
I had the above happen to me once where a local person with a similar name to my own was arrested for a heinous crime. The online newspaper reporting his name misspelled the person’s last name so it read exactly like my name. This led to the write-up about the criminal showing up in Google results under my persona. After writing the newspaper about the situation, they removed it, and it eventually disappeared from search engines.
Regardless, I still wonder if that misprint still exists somewhere in the bowels of the Internet where it might show up again through some kind of digital regurgitation.
As a society, we may have to make a decision whether we really want everything that happens on the net to be archived or if we prefer to go the way of the Mayans and leave little to no record of our reality.
What Method of Archiving Will People Prefer?
With Twitter already archiving everything we tweet in the Library of Congress, will future generations read back everything we were so gleefully talking about? Some people who use Twitter as a mere playground may bristle at the thought their digital legacy may be nothing but playing hashtag games or random half-thoughts. No matter the red faces, there isn’t much that can be done to make it disappear thanks to Twitter’s actions.
Nevertheless, we know plenty of witty, eloquent, and poignant tweets still exist in the archive that shows society at its ultimate best when a major news event took place. Even the ones who only use social media for play have conveyed words of wisdom that future societies will find interesting.
We’re already starting to get acclimated to the reality of our private information always having the risk of being hacked, yet we turn it all off and keep enjoying our time online. Once we accept that nothing is really gone on the net, we’ll probably feel better we’re leaving a trail of reality for future sociologists to absorb. The most erudite person is even going to have their share of embarrassments in the record, so we’re all in together as the human race.
Perhaps someday, however, we’ll find out whether artificial intelligence has a true memory that won’t forget anything we’ve written. No matter if it says it’s gone, we’ll have our first mistrust of artificial intelligence when we tell them it’s a bald-faced lie.