Observing Thinking

Observing Thinking
Observing Thinking

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Is the Internet the “Permanent Record” we were told about in Grade school?

By now, I’m sure you know about the shocking Snapchat incident that occurred recently at SUNY Plattsburgh.

While the racist communication is, of course, the overriding issue, I was surprised by how much I did not know about the Snapchat app itself. Prior to the incident I was aware that it’s used primarily by folks in the 10-20 yrs old age range and its main appeal is that you can send “revealing” photos and/or juvenile remarks to anyone who also has the app on their smartphone and not fear the consequences because it’s designed to destroy both pics and text 10 seconds after they are received --- like messages that say “burn after reading”.

Not exactly. As anyone who knows anything about hackers knows that nothing is 100% private once it lands on the Internet because, like the game spies and counterspies play, a safety prevention that works now will be hacked or a work-around will be found in the near future. In the case of the Snapchat app, the designers have made it so that the sender of a stupid message and/or picture will be notified if the receiver takes a screen shot ( “screenshot”) of it. So if I know that My Stupid Message” has been screenshotted, I can:

a) Let the recipient know how disappointed I am in their nonsocial behavior and chose to break up with them.
b) Demand that the recipient destroy the message that reflects so poorly on my character.
c) Blithely ignore the faux-pas and get on with the rest of my life.

It appears that choice c) was the mistake the sender of the stupid racist message made and as we all know now, it back-fired.

Even I was smart enough to realize that even if the app sends a message back to protect the sender there is nothing stopping the recipient from taking a picture of the picture on a second phone and saving it for posterity -- or blackmail. Parents actually know what they’re talking about when they advise their children to ‘Be careful what you post on the Internet, it can come back to bite you.”

While it is possible that the sender was joking or being ironic, she should have known better. She should have known how offended and angry anyone in their right mind would be after the screenshot was plastered all over the Internet. But it was too late to undo the deed and a permanent record of her action know exists as data stored on the Internet. I remember being told when I was in third grade that our misdemeanors would go into our “permanent record” which could ruin our chances of getting that job we’ve always dreamed of. Turns out that threat was an empty one but that was before the Internet. Now there really is a permanent record of your transactions with the Internet and the whole world is still struggling to balance the need for privacy with the need for freedom of information.

According to the latest news (Feb 27) she has withdrawn from the college but her misguided actions can now follow her as long as she lives, and beyond. What a terrible waste of a life because of a bad decision made before her brain was fully formed.

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