creepy, fear, doubt, harm and damages from your #digitalfootprint

The reason for posting a copy of this article is to think about the truth it tells us about digital footprints living forever.  It is easy to build an article about big brother and somehow it is creepy that we are watched (knowingly and unknowingly) and it makes fabulous tabloid headlines.  Creepy increases FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) fuelled by headlines and the odd article.   However,  as shown below it is likely that the cost of keeping all data may just be too high and we need to become selective, indeed we may even print it. 

Do we have the first flint knife, stone axa or sword and every iteration of them, or just a few and we can work it out - how much (data, evidence) do we really need.

The question that should be asked is about damages.  Yes people can be tracked and found, and Google has settled on its fines for 'abuse' with street view but the level of real damages is very low.  

Therefore are we far more worried about digital footprints than, in reality, we should be?   The damage may not be so high, yes it is personally annoying if violated - but what is the real fear and the real harm which is so different and new compared to the paper world.

Appealing to creepy fear appears to be leading ahead of examples of real harm.


Original Article is Reserving the future: how archivists are battling to save our digital footprint on 27 September 2010 from

Digital technology may now be embedded in our everyday lives, but how to save digital-only material for future generations is creating a major headache for archivists.


Although traditional archives such as books, letters and photographs all have tried-and-tested preservation methods, the fast rate of change and upgrade for digital technology means some items could end up being lost forever.

A new project being carried out by the University of Hull and the universities of Virginia, Stanford and Yale in America, hopes to create a framework for managing digital archives and preserving their contents for years to come.

Archivists at Hull, who earlier this year moved one million archive documents to the new purpose-built Hull History Centre, are among those now facing the huge challenge of how to save ‘born digital’ material such as word processing documents, web pages and images, stored on disks, USB sticks and CDs.

Digital archivist Simon Wilson, who is working on the project with colleagues within the University of Hull’s Library & Learning Innovation, said: “With paper records, as long as the material is kept dry and in a controlled environment we know we could return to it years later without any problems.

“But with born-digital material the archivists must tackle the issues surrounding software, hardware and media becoming out of date within just a few years. Think of how many files are stored on floppy disks in desk drawers around the world,. Software too can become obsolete so quickly that we may reach a point in the not-too-distant future where even common file formats need specialist equipment to read them!”

He added: “Many people are working solely in digital formats nowadays, so the idea of preserving a writer’s first draft of a poem scribbled in a notebook like that of Philip Larkin, will become increasingly uncommon. We are now turning our attention to thinking about the sheer amount of data which exists online- for example there are more than 10 billion photos on Facebook alone.”

As part of the project, the University has identified three depositors to work with; the Mission to Seafarers, the Socialist Health Association and the novelist and screenwriter Stephen Gallagher.

Mr Gallagher, a Hull graduate and now a novelist, screenwriter and director specialising in contemporary suspense stories, said of his digital-only work method: “Every outline, script and novel draft has flown back and forth without ever existing as hard copy until (in the case of the scripts) printed and handed to the actors. The new novel itself has been composed, delivered and revised entirely digitally.”

So what happens if digital archives go out of date? In 1986 the BBC Domesday Project involved researchers and thousands of school children to mark the 900th anniversary of King William the Conqueror’s land survey with the project recorded onto 12” videodiscs. Whilst the original ancient text itself remains legible and usable more than 900 years after it was created, technological changes meant that the digital records could not be read just 14 years later and the data was only recovered after a huge investment of time and effort.

Selecting appropriate technology to use in the management of born digital archives is, thus, key to the success in ensuring the long-term integrity and authenticity of the archives. The project will be building on the existing University of Hull digital repository based on Fedora, a system designed to ensure the durability of digital content.

The transatlantic project is named Born-digital archives: An inter-Institutional Model of Stewardship (AIMS) and is being funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the USA. It is being led by the University of Virginia Library and is due to finish in October 2011.