On the Internet, Things Never Go Away Completely

The growing problem of Internet data persistence
  • Thomas P. Keenan
Part of the IFIP — The International Federation for Information Processing book series (IFIPAICT, volume 262)


The problem of information “getting into the wrong hands” has existed since the first stored data computer systems. Numerous companies and government departments have been embarrassed by data left on un-erased media such as magnetic tape and discovered by inquiring minds. The advent of data communications brought the problem to a whole new level, since information could be transmitted over long distances to places unknown. The phenomenal rise of the Internet elevated the problem of Internet Data Persistence (IDP) to a public issue, as the “private” emails of public figures such Oliver North and Bill Gates were introduced in court proceedings, and when Delta Airlines fired a flight attendant for her in-uniform blog posting. In a significant way, the digital trail that we leave behind is becoming a new form of “online identity,” every bit as real as a passport, driver’s license or pin number. New technologies, from virtual worlds, to camera phones to video sharing sites, give the question of “Where Has My Data Gone and How Do I Really Know?” some new and frightening dimensions. Future developments like “signature by DNA biometric” will make the issue even more urgent and more complex. Coping with it will require new policies, technical tools, laws, and ethical standards. It has even been suggested that a whole new profession, sometimes called the “e-scrubber,” will arise to assist in tracking down and deleting unwanted online remnants.


Privacy Policy Virtual World Flight Attendant Video Sharing Site Holocaust Denier 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas P. Keenan
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Environmental DesignUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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