While we are creating mountains of online data at an extraordinary rate, not much thought is being given to the future of that data. For example, says Nat Maple, senior vice president and general manager at Acronis, consider that by 2032, it's not farfetched to predict that a United States presidential candidate will have a Facebook page that chronicles his entire adolescence. While this raises questions about privacy and the desire to protect potentially embarrassing online broadcasts, it also highlights the amount of insight we can gain in the future from the data we are creating now. Says Maple, "[This] creates an entirely renewed sense of urgency around storing the digital moments of our lives in a place where only we can access them."
Society Is Changing
Since the dawn of the World Wide Web 25 years ago, Internet use has grown to include 87 percent of U.S. adults, according to a Pew Internet study. However, the online world is still young and clarity around who owns the data we create online remains fairly ambiguous.
"Many people under the age of 30 are more likely to send a text message versus have a phone conversation," says Maple. "We’re more likely to send an email or IM than have a face-to-face conversation with a coworker. The unspoken issue is that we’re creating a digital trail of all we say and do. For the first time in history, we’re documenting everything without regard to where or how these records are kept and saved. Our data has an eternal life — with each of us serving as our own personal historians, many times without even knowing it."
According to IDC, by 2020 we will have created 40 zettabytes of data, which is 50 times the amount recorded in 2010. To break it down:
- There have been 250 billion photos uploaded to Facebook, averaging out to 350 million photo uploads a day.
- On Instagram, users post 35 million selfies a day, or 400 selfies per second.
- On Twitter, an average of 400 million tweets are posted each day, which equates to about 6,250 novels per day.
How to Save Personal Records
How can a single consumer keep track of all this data? While not all data is vital to keep, it can be difficult to predict what information could become important or sentimental over time. Maple asks, "With the nearly infinite data points we each create daily, why aren’t we as concerned about keeping our personal record as we have been in the past?" Unfortunately, many people don't consider this until a device has been lost, stolen or broken and the data becomes much more difficult to recover — if not impossible. The simplest solution, says Maple, lies with data backup programs that keep track of and store personal data in the background, with little extra effort required by the user. It should work, says Maple, "Much like how Internet security software invisibly runs in the background, blocking malicious viruses and other threats from infecting our machines, an automatic backup archive would save time and frustration when inevitably our devices fail. Our individual data would always be there."
H/T Wired Insights