345. Digital Footprints

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short story in which someone attacked another person with a steering lock. It was gruesome and bloody and sickening – just the way I liked it.

Then earlier this week, a video went viral around the Malaysian digisphere, featuring a lady going batshit insane on an older man for putting a dent in her brand new Peugeot. In retaliation, on top of screaming bloody murder and hurling verbal abuse at the man, she took his steering lock and proceeded to bash his hood in.

I’m not sure about the life imitates art vs. art imitates life argument, but I can vouch for the fact that the two just accidentally plagiarizes one another from time to time.

(except in the non-fictional case, no one’s head got reduced to red gunk)

You can imagine how the internet reacted.

If there’s one thing we all must learn and learn quickly, it’s to never challenge the internet. They’re like medieval dragons, eating valiant knights for breakfast and turning empires into ashes and dust. Except unlike medieval dragons, the internet’s fury and power is largely crowdfunded. There is no way you can beat the sheer force of destruction that is the internet.

Just ask Barbara Streisand’s manager.

Within 24 hours, someone – or a group of people – had already identified the woman down to her name, her nickname, her workplace, and her home address by her car registration and the 1/5th of a company logo that was exposed on her t-shirt. People found her facebook account and hacked into it. People were harassing her in every way they knew how.

(it’s like a scene right out of Sherlock, just without the British accents)

If that isn’t enough to break a person, I don’t know what is.

She has since offered apologies: one in private, to the gentleman she heckled; and another in public, over a radio broadcast, for the appeasement of the internet.

(the only thing stopping the internet from achieving godhood, I think, is the lack of human sacrifices. No, I’m not asking you do offer a human sacrifice to the internet– What’s wrong with you?)

The startling thing – among all the other startling things that has happened in this one short episode – that got me was “Holy crap, are people also able to track me down via the internet?”

The first thought that came to my mind was my old blog, where I have published a novella’s worth of badly-formed thoughts and sentences. Safety and privacy concerns came second after that.

With some knowledge of how search engines work and some persistence, I imagine it would be possible to construct a timeline of one’s life via their digital footprint. Especially if you were born in the 90s, at the dawn of the internet.

It would be so easy for someone to find out who you are, where you live, who your closest friends are, what are the things that makes you tick, your hot buttons, your fears, your insecurities… Boy, that’s a lot of information just sitting there, waiting for someone to come and dig it up.

Would be a real shame if someone made some use out of it…

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