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D-Lib Magazine
October 2006

Volume 12 Number 10

ISSN 1082-9873

Take Care in the Digital World

Over the past month, the technology of instant messaging has been prominently in the news – particularly the downside of having messages linger in archives only to surface later and be made public in a way that is embarrassing, at least, or incriminating, at worst. Listening to a recent National Public Radio call-in program, I found it interesting how many callers said they had not been aware that their instant messages could be archived, and how many of those callers wanted to be told how they could find and delete them. The issues here are not limited, of course, to instant messaging (IM). Much as the record of an IM is close to recording a private conversation, so is the record of a search engine session close to recording a thought process.

New Internet technologies are proliferating at an ever-increasing rate, and while many of these technologies are quickly adopted, some of the adopters seem not to take the time to fully investigate how those technologies operate or to consider that there might be some downsides to using them.

How often do users download new software and only skim quickly through the license agreement for the software? How often do they carefully read the accompanying "read-me" file? How many users consider what they may be surrendering in the way of privacy for the conveniences afforded by new online services?

Doing those things takes time and attention, both of which constantly seem to be in short supply. And the issue of privacy in a networked environment will not be easily resolved. Once again we find that "free lunch" is a rare commodity, and it is wise to take care in a digital world.

Bonita Wilson

Copyright© 2006 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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