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Google: Digital footprint will haunt web users for life

Changing name may be only way to escape previous online activity

Young web users may be need to change their names when they become adults in a bid to distance themselves from content previously posted online about them, says Google.

CEO Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal: "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time."

"I mean we really have to think about these things as a society. I'm not even talking about the really terrible stuff, terrorism and access to evil things."

Schmidt also told the newspaper the search engine is "trying to figure out what the future of search is".

"I mean that in a positive way. We're still happy to be in search, believe me. But one idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type."

He says that at present "we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are". The search engine also knows your location, which according to the WSJ, means if you need milk and there's a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk.

"I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

However, social media consultant Suw Charman-Anderson told the BBC, the problem was not as great as Schmidt believes.

"There's always a lag between the introduction of new technology and the development of a set of social norms around the behaviour that the technology encourages."

She said the idea that everything is stored online is not true and it will be quite some time before that can become true "because of the enormity of the internet".

"As a society, we are just going have to become a bit more forgiving of the follies of youth."

See also: Google buys virtual goods currency firm


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