Life, loss and digital data: a warning from one woman’s digital ego

When deeply painful life events occur, a digital ego that doesn't keep track hurts the person who created it - and the company that uses it.

If you want a sense of why we consider the idea of a digital ego to be so very important we’re anchoring the conference around it, here’s a horrible example of when you get it wrong:

Seven months after my miscarriage, mere weeks before my due date, I came home from work to find a package on my welcome mat. It was a box of baby formula bearing the note: “We may all do it differently, but the joy of parenthood is something we all share.”

The writer’s mistake? She’d entered the details of her pregnancy into an app. And that app created a digital version of her that stayed pregnant – as far as the app company’s parents were concerned:

After packing the formula back into the box, I snapped a picture and texted it to my best friend. “Well, the internet still thinks I’m pregnant,” I wrote. “Maybe the mailman now, too.”

Because the app company had sold on her details to other companies, her digital ego was pregagnt for them – and despite ending the pregnancy in the app, that information was not passed on as easily as her happy news.

As we move more of our life into the digital realm, that means more serious – and difficult things move there, too. And if you don’t remember that behind every digital ego is a real person with hopes, dreams, loves – and pain – you’re going to destroy trust and, eventually, your business.