Digital Amnesia

Digital Amnesia is the experience of forgetting information that you trust to a digital device to store and remember for you. A Kaspersky Lab study has found many of us struggle to recall memories trusted to connected devices.

Background:

The Internet, sometimes called simply "the Net," is a worldwide system of computer networks - a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers).

The internet links private PCs, public networks and business networks together using telephone lines to form one vast worldwide network. Over a billion people used the Internet in 2008. Of these, about 500 million use the Internet at least once a week, making them more-or-less permanent citizens of the Internet population. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, the world’s largest index of the Internet, estimated the size at roughly over 5 billion gigabytes of data.

Mobile devices are used for almost anything a computer can do and sometimes even more. Many people have private information stored on their phones such as banking information, photos, emails or other. A large problem in mobile security is how applications are storing users private information. According to the Open Web Application Security Project (OWAPS) the number one top mobile security risk is insecure data storage. There have been several recent cases of mobile apps storing data insecurely and attackers exposing this vulnerability. Storing data on mobile devices can be a challenging problem because space is very limited on mobile devices. Another issue occurs when data is not correctly wiped off these devices once the user or the application is done using it.

Analysis:
For many people, particularly younger consumers, connected devices have become not just the primary source of knowledge, but the default storage space for their most important personal information, including contacts and images . Around half of smartphone-owning 16 to 34 year olds and 40% of those aged 35 to 44 surveyed for the study admit that their phone holds almost everything they need to know or recall.

This growing dependence on the internet as a source of information we might previously have memorized or looked for elsewhere can reflect impatience or the need for speed in a fast-moving world.

The internet and internet-enabled devices have transformed our everyday lives and relationships. We entrust them with our precious personal information including contacts and images and rely on them to connect us to a vast repository of knowledge, anytime, anywhere. Connected devices enrich our lives but they have also given rise to the potentially risky phenomenon of Digital Amnesia. The majority of digital consumers are unable to recall critical contact details for those closest to them; and suggest a direct link between data available at the click of a button and a failure to commit that data to memory.

Counterpoint:
Our brains clearly have a capacity limit in terms of how much information is accessible. Old memories do fade and will eventually be forgotten, or overwritten by more relevant memories if we don’t use (recall) them. Given these capacity limitations, one could argue that smartphones can enhance our memory, because they store information externally, and thereby free up capacity in long-term memory. Research shows that being able to forget currently irrelevant or outdated information makes us more efficient at encoding new information. This phenomenon is termed ‘directed forgetting’ and it has recently been demonstrated that it is relevant with respect to using computerized aids.

Assessment:
Our assessment is that a growing inability to remember important numbers because they are just a click away leaves us immensely vulnerable should the device be lost or stolen or the data compromised in some way – particularly if we are out and about. Secondly, while the internet offers access to a wealth of insight and intelligence that can enhance every experience, it also leaves us open to unexpected threats and vulnerabilities.