Identity boundaries are getting increasingly blurred as we reveal more of our work life to friends and relatives and more of our provate life to colleagues at work. Even if we do manage to filter our posts as I suggested earlier once you tell a few people something interesting you can assume they will pass it on. It's the first law of gossip and is even more true on the net.
There's even a service called Reputation Defender that promises to enhance your digital reputation by making sure that all the positive information gets top scores in a Google search and although the embarrassing stuff cannot be deleted they make sure it ends up at the far end of a search list. A sort of personal spin doctor. It's no longer only celebrities who need help with their media profiles.
One tempting solution mentioned in the article is that of being able to label content with a digital sell-by date after which the content will self-destruct, in true Mission Impossible style. I like that idea on social networks where you must choose how long you want a photo or text to be accessible. It would certainly free up storage space otherwise clogged up with digital junk. The problem is whether we can trust such a system. When we delete something on our computers we naively assume that they are gone forever but if a skilled IT technician gets hold of your hard drive it's amazing what they can dig up.
Dirt diggers will always find something in your past no matter how careful you are. We may have to get used to a web that never forgets and become more forgiving and tolerant of previous misdemeanours.
"Our character, ultimately, can’t be judged by strangers on the basis of our Facebook or Google profiles; it can be judged by only those who know us and have time to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, face to face and in context, with insight and understanding. In the meantime, as all of us stumble over the challenges of living in a world without forgetting, we need to learn new forms of empathy, new ways of defining ourselves without reference to what others say about us and new ways of forgiving one another for the digital trails that will follow us forever."
New York Times, The Web Means the End of Forgetting