Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Need for Digital Literacy and Encrypting IMs...

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a friend about instant messages and data privacy. She was blown away at the idea that when you delete your emails they are not really deleted - the company's servers typically keep that data for months or even years. Likewise, she had never really thought about all her IM conversations being recorded for posterity by corporations.

BillBlog addresses the urgency and importance of this type of general ignorance towards our personal data. "We need a much broader approach to literacy in the digital age, one that helps users of social network sites take good care of their personal information and avoid scams or snares, one that encourages email users to use available tools for encrypting messages or adding digital signatures.
As computers and the Internet become more and more important in our daily lives it is vital that we know how they work and understand the risks we take when we surf websites, chat to colleagues or send emails off into the uncharted wastes of the network."

My friend who was blown away that her emails and IMs were being recorded by corporations and saved for years was not some clueless grandmotherly senior citizen who's never seen a keyboard before. She happens to be a young twenty-something professional, and definitely computer literate. The problem is that in the Internet Age, being computer literate is not adequate enough. In order to be "a well-rounded citizen of a networked society" people need to get informed about what is happening to their personal data and how their actions online may have long-term consequences in terms of their digital profile and identity.

So to contribute my two cents towards helping people in this manner, here is a link for encrypting IM conversations. After all, nobody wants some drunken IM chat to come back to haunt them 30 years later when they run for public office :-)


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