Here's the latest privacy rupture: old school newspaper archives are showing up online, getting indexed, and becoming part of the permanent googlable record for the people who wrote for them and the people who appeared in them. This is the latest installment in an ongoing story — for example, when DejaNews (now Google Groups) put Usenet's archives online, the material we thought we'd written in a no-archive medium became part of our googlable past. Soon, face-recognition will put names on every photo on the web, and then, look out!
As the papers have begun digitizing their back issues, their Web sites have become the latest front in the battle over online identities. Youthful activities that once would have disappeared into the recesses of a campus library are now preserved on the public record, to be viewed with skeptical eyes by an adult world of colleagues and potential employers. Alumni now in that world are contacting newspapers with requests for redaction. For unlike Facebook profiles — that other notable source of young-adult embarrassment — the ability to remove or edit questionable content in these cases is out of the author's hands.
When Terrence J. Casey, then the Collegian's editor, got Ms. Dobo's request, he referred to a policy put in place by previous editors: The Daily Collegian does not remove any editorial content from its Web site. However, if there is a factual inaccuracy in a story, the editors will run a correction or an update as needed.
Lyle, a graduate of Emory University who asked that his last name be withheld because he is in the military, got pretty much the same response from The Emory Wheel, where he served as opinion editor for three years before graduating in 2005 and joining the Marine Corps. Lyle had sounded off on domestic politics, the wars, and economic policy in a column that is preserved in the paper's Web archives. "If any of my Marines were to end up Googling me, I'd feel uncomfortable with them knowing my own politics," he said. "As a rule, politics and the military don't mix."