Move over Gordon Moore, there is a new law in town: Digital is Eternal.

Intel Corporation co-founder Moore is famous for his 1965 “law,” stating that every 18-24 months the amount of capability/complexity that can be incorporated into a silicon piece of real estate doubles. The law is still applicable nearly two generations later and it explains how we can have ever-smaller devices (e.g. fourth generation cell phones with tons of apps) that are faster, quicker, more powerful and burn less power in doing so. It all adds up to the serendipity of the semiconductor business.

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A net effect of Moore’s law is the proliferation of the ones-and-zeroes that make digital possible. And with the global spread of digital technology comes the undeniable and inescapable fact that anything and everything that is rendered digital is there forever…and can come back to bite you. Digital is eternal.

Back in my analog days working in the California governor’s office in the 1980s, a frequent refrain heard in the corridors of the capitol was, “If you don’t want to read about it in the Sacramento Bee, don’t write it down.” The big fear at the time was copy machines, lots of copy machines. Members of the Capital Press Corps would soon be receiving white envelopes with no return addresses and inside of these envelopes were photocopied “good dirt.” This practice almost sounds quaint compared to today’s digital TMZ, Deadspin, National Enquirer world

Fast forward to the digital days of the Internet Bubble in which stocks rode the roller coaster up and the same thrill ride to the bottom, we heard another refrain, “Everything digital is discoverable.” Translated: A plaintiff attorney firm filing a strike suit against your company could, and most likely would, demand in the discovery process all corporation e-mails, notes, transcripts, documents, anything and everything even remotely relevant to the matter being litigated. And there was no excuse for digital data being routinely purged after an appropriate period of time; a judge would simply order a company to digitally comply regardless of the IT data recovery costs involved. No wonder so many cases were settled out of court to the delight of the strike suit firm.

Today, we live in the age of Google. The company’s name is no longer just a proper noun, but a verb as in “Google this” and “Google that.” What is being Googled in many cases is a person’s reputation and personal brand.

If you are Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian (you get the digital picture), money and attention is the draw; reputation is clearly secondary, if not tertiary. So a supposedly private sex tape or commando raid becomes public or pubic…or lack of pubic. Will they ever regret that their sexual escapades are permanently captured and literally viewed by millions all by means of digital ones and zeroes? Wonder if Brett Favre and/or Anthony Weiner have any regrets about digitally transmitting images of their respective junk?

Go ahead and “Google” Olympic Gold medal swimmer, “Michael Phelps bong” and 505,000 pages including the infamous stoned photos (first item) come rushing at you. Will the public remember his 16-gold medals or his famous bong pipe escapade? What is really sad is the bong pipe photo, which reportedly cost him millions in endorsements, will not only follow him to his grave, but actually will be a permanently black mark on his reputation beyond his grave.

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“Some day that party picture is going to bite them when they seek a senior corporate job or public office,” said Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital. “I think they should wake up now, and become aware of the extent to which they’re sharing parts of themselves that one day they may wish they had kept private.”

More than one person has labeled college as “Life’s last playground.” And as a teaching assistant, I run into students who are having plain old fun and enjoying their college years to the max. They should also keep in mind, whether they like it or not, that they are also in the midst of making a transition from being student to becoming a professional.

If a student is neck-and-neck with another student for an entry-level job and the employer Google’s both and finds a bong pipe, a drunken stupor or an inappropriate display for body parts that should be private on one student and none of the above on the other, who are they going to be inclined to hire?

And this cautionary note goes beyond the prospective work place and also includes a potential lover. In this era of Internet dating, it is routine for a partner-to-be to surf your reputation to determine if there any game-changing, unpleasant sides to your personal brand. What may be playful and fun to you, may be interpreted as showing a total lack of judgment.

In this era of smaller and smaller cameras and more powerful microphones, all for reasonable prices, it is better to think twice and to exert caution. My intent here is to not be an old-fashioned party pooper. Instead, I would like to ensure that student careers do not come crashing to earth, before they even have a chance to get launched into the professional stratosphere. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Moore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_Law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Phelps

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=4&oq=Michael+Phelps+&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADRA_enUS373US374&q=michael+phelps+bong&gs_upl=0l0l0l13120lllllllllll0&aqi=g4s1

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