From carbon-footprints to online-footprints in one societal step

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...
Image via Wikipedia

We’re a faddy lot. Two years ago you couldn’t swing a plastic bag without hitting an environmentalist head-on. Fast-forward to 2010, however, and it’s all gone quiet on the eco front.

The New York Times recently ran an article asking whether the recession had pulverised environmentalism. The article draws on a working paper by Matthew E. Kahn and Matthew J. Kotchen, which correlates higher unemployment rates with a lower interest in the environment. Khan and Kotchen claim that when a (US) state’s unemployment level increases, Google searches for ‘global warming’ go down, while searches for ‘unemployment’ go up.

It might be selfish, but it’s understandable. In the boom years we had the time and the money to ponder ‘global warming’, but now we have something more pressing on our hands – we have ‘global youth unemployment’.

According to The Guardian, 81 million 16-24-year-olds were unemployed at the end of 2009. With entry-level jobs at such a premium, squeaky clean covering letters and CVs are taken as a given – pristine online-footprints become a pre-requisite.

It’s not surprising to read that celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan employ ‘reputation managers’ to maintain their online-footprints, driving positive conversations further up the Google search pages and making negative sentiment ‘go away.’

What’s more intriguing, however, is that parents are now doing the same thing. Companies such as Reputation Defender offer packages specifically aimed at children, monitoring cyberspace for anything that could potentially hinder a child’s school, university and job prospects. The company monitors all posts, private info and photos across the Deep Web – i.e. non-indexed pages, pages that are created dynamically, and pages that require a login – including ’40 of the biggest social networks.’

They then deliver reports highlighting any coverage that might need ‘destroying’ and for the sum of around $30 per item, the offending coverage can just ‘go away’. The ‘destruction’ process takes between 30-90 days and is done using undisclosed ‘proprietary in-house methodology.’

Are children brands in need of reputation management? I got caught out aged 16 playing truant, cigarette-in-hand, thanks to a photo published on page five of the Daily Star, showing the nation – and my headmistress – I definitely wasn’t at home in bed. I got my knuckles wrapped, but it hardly haunted me for life. I learned from my mistakes;  surely today’s children should be given the freedom to do the same.

© Wikipedia “Glonbal Warning projects” Photo.

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