I don’t know if they did this in Germany, but in our elementary schools in America, if we did something particularly heinous, they had a special way of threatening you. They would say: "This is going on your permanent record".
It was pretty scary. I had never seen a permanent record, but I knew exactly what it must look like. It was bright red, thick, tied with twine. Full of official stamps.
The permanent record would follow you through life, and whenever you changed schools, or looked for a job or moved to a new house, people would see the shameful things you had done in fifth grade.
How wonderful it felt when I first realized the permanent record didn’t exist. They were bluffing! Nothing I did was going to matter! We were free!
And then when I grew up, I helped build it for real.
The brilliant Maciej Cegłowski on spying and the loss of online privacy, not necessarily to the government.