A critical decision for every person and organization is how long to keep information out there in the physical and cyber realms.
Delete something too soon--and you may be looking in vain for that critical document, report, file, picture, or video and may even violate record retention requirements.
Fail to get rid of something--and you may be embarrassed, compromised, ripped off, or even put in legal jeopardy.
It all depends what the information is, when it is from, and who gets their hands and eyes on it!
Many stars have been compromised by paparazzi or leaked photos that ended up on the front page of newspapers or magazines and even government officials have ended up in the skewer for getting caught red handed like ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner sexting on Twitter.
Everything from statuses to photos put on social media have gotten people in trouble whether when applying to schools and jobs, with their partners, and even with law enforcement.
Information online is archived and searchable and it is not uncommon for parents to warn kids to be careful what they put online, because it can come back to haunt them later.
Now smartphones applications like Snapchat are helping people communicate and then promptly delete things they send.
With Snapshot, you can snap a photo, draw on it, even add text and send to friends, family, others. The innovation here is that before you hit send, you choose how long you want the message to be available to the recipient before vanishing--up to 10 seconds.
Snapchat has sent over 1 billion messages since July and claims over 50 million are sent daily--although forget trying to verify that by counting up the messages because they have self-destructed and are gone!
Of course, there are workarounds such as taking a screenshot of the message before it vanishes or taking a photo of the message--so nothing is full proof.
Last year, according to The Atlantic, the European Commission proposed a "Right-To Be Forgotten" as part of their data protection and privacy laws. This would require social media sites to remove by request embarrassing information and photos and would contrast with the U.S. freedom of speech rights that protects "publishing embarrassing but truthful information."
Now, companies like Reputation.com even provide services for privacy and reputation management where they monitor information about you online, remove personal information from sites that sell it, and help you with search engine optimization to "set the record straight" with personal, irrelevant, exaggerated or false information by instead publishing positive truthful material.
According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (7 Feb. 2013), "Ephemeral data is the future," but I would say comprehensive reputation management is the future--whether through the strategic management of permanent information or removing of temporary data--we are in a sense who the record says we are. ;-)