Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Privacy Online. A Name Change Isn’t Enough

Eric Schmidt, the current CEO of Google, gets a lot of attention whenever he speaks about privacy. His words circulated the internet back in 2009 when he made the following comments on a CNBC documentary:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place…” (source)

Then back in August this year The Wall Street Journal interviewed Schmidt. The one line that kept popping up in Google Reader and Twitter was the WSJ reporting that:

“[Schmidt] predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.” (source)

Unlike when I was a teen, today’s social network isn’t restricted to a small group of friends or a local city. That thing you foolishly say or do is now available to the whole world via Facebook or Twitter. And remember, that photo you post on Facebook doesn’t get deleted even when you click delete.

Ultimate Privacy is a Myth

Consider this though; your life is never truly private. The authorities might not see what you do. Your parents might not see what you do. But your Creator does, and He sees it whether you post it on Facebook or not.

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)

No matter how much “privacy” is taken away by (or we give up to) companies like Google, it does not change that we live all of life before our Creator. Ultimate privacy is therefore a myth.

Don’t Hide From The Sins Of Your Youth

After sinning against God, Adam and Eve were the first to try and cover their sins and hide from God (Genesis 3). This might seem like a good idea, but when set before the eyes of the Creator loincloth covers very little.

Covering yourself, whether through loincloth or a name change, is antithetical to the good news found in the Scriptures. Far from hiding your sins, the Scriptures call you to come before God naked and exposed, humbly acknowledging your guilt and shame. It is only then, through faith in Jesus Christ, that God will cover you. Not with loincloth, but with a “robe of righteousness” sown together by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:10a)

I suspect Schmidt is right when he speaks of a time in the near future when on mass people will want to escape the sins of their youth. However, a name change just won’t cut it. Changing your name might separate your reputation from your actions, but it won’t separate you from them.

Oh, and if you only opt to preserve your reputation, with Facebook’s facial recognition software you’ll probably need to do more than change your name anyway.

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